Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Amherst Doctor Pleads Guilty To Obtaining Controlled Substances By Fraud And Health Care Fraud
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y. – In the second case this week involving a doctor illegally prescribing narcotics, and the third case this week involving a medical professional, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today Dr. Albert R. Cowie, 37, of Amherst, NY, pleaded guilty to obtaining controlled substances by fraud and health care fraud before U.S District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
“As stated several times before, this Office is committed to identifying and prosecuting all traffickers of narcotics – whether they be medical professionals or corner drug dealers,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “With this being the third case this week involving a medical professional, hopefully that focus will become known to those who contribute to the current opiate/opioid crisis.”
“DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt stated, “Three out of four people who use heroin previously abused prescription drugs. It is imperative to regulate the distribution of prescription medication; and this plea represents law enforcement’s commitment to keeping diverted prescription medication off the streets.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney George C. Burgasser, who is handling the case, stated that between January 2010 and March 22, 2014, the defendant, a practicing radiologist, wrote more than 200 illegal prescriptions for controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Percocet, and Hydrocodone. The prescriptions were distributed to an individual who then went to local pharmacies and had the scripts filled. The individual retained some of the controlled substances for personal use but returned the remainder of the narcotics to Cowie for his own use.
During a meeting between Cowie and a confidential witness, the defendant advised the witness to lie to insurance investigators about his alleged prescription fraud. The witness is quoted as saying to the defendant “okay so just say they were written for me even though they were written for you…is what you’re saying? Cowie replied “right.”
As a result of the prescription fraud, Univera Health Care and HealthNow New York were fraudulently billed $20,482.83.
On Monday, Dr. Pravin Mehta was sentenced to 24 months in prison for illegally prescribing massive quantities of pain medications. And on Wednesday, Leyla Samadi was convicted of illegally obtaining controlled substances by fraud.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen, the New York State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, under the direction of NYS Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, and the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Askey.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 6, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. before Judge Vilardo.