A local man with a bright future in politics now faces uncertainty and possible prison time after being charged with at least one felony following his arrest Nov. 22 in Granville for attempting to pass off a forged prescription for painkillers.
Christopher R. Bernstein, 28, of Granville, an aide to Assemblyman Tony Jordan, was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Police said he altered a prescription and attempted to fill it at the Granville Rite Aid.
When reached for comment Jordan said Bernstein was no longer working for his office following speaking with Bernstein twice, once on Tuesday and once on Wednesday. “We’ll just leave it at Chris is no longer working for me and the assembly,” Jordan said.
Asked for his reaction, Jordan said it was mixed.
“I think it’s a combination of things, as a person you’re saddened — if a someone doesn’t ask for help you can’t provide help, there are opportunities to help, but unless they disclose these facts, they can’t get that help- also very disappointed that somebody that you worked with did not disclose some very important facts that if we had know we might have been able to spots signs or offer help so I guess I’d say it was disappointment and sadness,” Jordan said.
As someone with experience with people who have drug addictions, when running felony drug court, Jordan said the real challenge of getting help to someone is the fact that addicts hide their addictions.
“That’s true no matter who the person is, it’s one of the real challenges of helping people with addictions it that people hide them, they don’t want other people to know,” Jordan said.
As the former Washington County prosecutor who headed up the felony drug treatment court, Jordan said he hoped the former employee now goes on to get the help he seems to need.
In an ironic twist, Bernstein does not have the option to enter the program his former boss ran for three years, according to authorities.
“He’s not eligible for drug court; by statute, he has to go to prison. Unfortunately his treatment options are limited by his past criminal record,” Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said.
“He’ll be facing at least two felonies, probably more,” Kortright said, one for the forgery and one for offering the forged perscription.
Kortright said Bernstein could face additional charges relating to failing to disclose a prior criminal conviction when applying for the job with Jordan’s office.
Based on where the application was made a charge of filing a false instrument could be made; that charge could be a felony or misdemeanor.
Bernstein attempted to fill a prescription at the Quaker Street Rite Aid Pharmacy. The forgery accusation said Bernstein attempted to increase the dosage amount on a prescription for Oxycodone, but the tampering was discovered and pharmacy personnel called State Police.
Officials said Bernstein failed to disclose a 2009 felony conviction for fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance when he was hired by Jordan’s office.
The conviction and subsequent probation stems from a cocaine sales conviction in Clinton County, officials said.
Jordan said he had not been informed of the prior conviction or probation so officials were looking into the possibility of additional charges for failing to disclose the conviction.
Jordan said Bernstein started in the position as an intern under now-Sen. Roy McDonald before McDonald won election to his current seat. “When I won Roy’s seat and I needed people they said they were pleased with the work he had done as an intern so we kept him on,” Jordan said.
“It’s really sad when anyone gets involved in this stuff,” Kortright said.
Kortright said the dangers of prescription drugs and the relative ease people can get them led him to implement the drug collection program in the county.
Law enforcement agencies like the Granville Police Department accept unused portions of prescriptions and then turn them in to Washington County, where they are incinerated. “I have to praise all of the police chiefs for doing this. It really makes a difference in my opinion,” Kortright said.
Bernstein has been active in Republic politics in Washington County and made numerous appearances in Granville either with Jordan or as his representative including most recently at the congratulatory gathering for FFA Organization Eastern Region Vice President Ken Quick Jr.
Bernstein was sent to the Washington County Jail after being arraigned in court in Fort Edward.
“I don’t think his friends knew, I don’t think anybody knew,” Kortright said.
Bernstein remains in jail.