SEP 28 (LONG ISLAND, N.Y.) Earlier today, a superseding indictment was unsealed charging Long Island physician William J. Conway with causing the deaths of two patients through the distribution of the highly addictive pain-killer oxycodone. The superseding indictment also charges Conway’s former office assistant, Robert Hachemeister, with conspiracy and distribution of oxycodone. Hachemeister was arrested by federal agents this morning and is scheduled to be arraigned later today before United States District Judge Leonard D. Wexler, at the U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip, New York.
The charges and arrest were announced by Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Field Office, Loretta E. Lynch, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Thomas V. Dale, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department.
On June 6, 2012, as part of a federal and state prescription drug abuse initiative within the Eastern District of New York, Conway was arrested by members of a task force comprising DEA special agents and Nassau County Police Department detectives on charges of illegally distributing oxycodone to numerous individuals between 2009 and 2012. Conway has been in custody since his arrest. According to court filings and records of the New York State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, Conway issued 5,554 oxycodone prescriptions – 782,032 pills – to numerous individuals between January 2009 and November 2011, who the defendant knew were addicted to drugs and without performing any meaningful medical examination.
The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. During the execution of a federal search warrant at his offices on February 29, 2012, Conway voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration authorizing him to prescribe controlled substances. However, he continued to issue prescriptions after that date.
The superseding indictment unsealed today charges Conway with causing the deaths of two Long Island men to whom he had distributed oxycodone. According to court filings by the government: (1) On April 23, 2011, Giovanni Manzella died of an overdose of oxycodone less than 48 hours after Conway provided him with two prescriptions totaling 450 pills of the drug; and (2) On October 27, 2011, Christopher Basmas was pronounced dead of an overdose of oxycodone and other narcotics two days after Conway provided him with a prescription for 180 pills of oxycodone.
Patient records seized in this case reveal that patients who obtained oxycodone prescriptions received nothing more than perfunctory examinations, essentially consisting of notations of the patient’s height, weight and blood pressure. After Basmas’s death, Conway allegedly attempted to alter various patient files, and continued to issue prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances, in some instances in the names of individuals he had never treated or even met. Hachemeister, who worked as an office assistant for Conway since approximately 1995, possesses no medical or nursing degree. However, between 2011 and 2012, he allegedly distributed thousands of oxycodone pills using prescription pads that were pre-signed by Conway. Hachemeister is charged with conspiring with Conway to illegally distribute oxycodone, and both men are charged together in 34 counts of distribution of oxycodone. Conway is also charged in eight additional counts with the distribution of the controlled substances hydrocodone and alprazolam.
“Sworn to do no harm, Conway allegedly turned his back on his patients’ real needs and turned instead to the pursuit of easy money. The charges unsealed today reflect the tragic consequences of prescription drug trafficking and abuse,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “This Office, with its state and federal law enforcement partners, will continue to attack this menace which has risen to epidemic proportions in our nation and in our communities.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Crowell stated, “Today’s indictment signifies that the abuse of prescription drugs can lead to death from a doctor’s office or from distribution on the streets. In this case, these individuals allegedly abused the sanctuary of a doctor’s office in order to illegally prescribe pain medication for the use of abuse and drug distribution.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Dale stated, “The Nassau County Police Department will continue to work closely with both state and federal agencies through the use of the Tactical Diversion Squad created to combat the ever increasing rise in the illegal use of prescription drugs. Our focus will be to investigate and arrest all individuals involved in illegally supplying prescriptions to drug addicted patients with full knowledge of their dependency.”
If convicted of causing the Manzella or Basmas deaths, Conway faces a mandatory-minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Both Conway and Hachemeister face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the remaining charges.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sean C. Flynn and Michael P. Canty. In January 2012, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the DEA, in conjunction with the five District Attorneys in this district, the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments, and the New York City Police Department, along with other key federal, state, and local government partners, launched the Prescription Drug Initiative to mount a comprehensive response to what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called an epidemic increase in the abuse of so-called opioid analgesics. So far, the Prescription Drug Initiative has brought over 100 federal and local criminal prosecutions, taken civil enforcement action against a pharmacy, removed prescription authority from numerous rogue doctors, and expanded information-sharing among enforcement agencies to better target and pursue drug traffickers.
The Initiative is also involved in an extensive community outreach program to address the abuse of pharmaceuticals. DEA and its national, tribal, and community partners will hold a fifth National Prescription Drug Take Back Day at thousands of collection sites across the country on Saturday, September 29th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone with expired, unused, or unwanted prescription drugs can environmentally dispose of them at locations found at www.dea.gov.
WILLIAM J. CONWAY
Residence: Flushing, NY
Residence: Baldwin, NY