Long Island Doctor Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute Oxycodone
Dr. William Conway issued over 782,000 oxycodone pills illegally to patients; two patients died of oxycodone overdoses in 2011
JULY 11–William J. Conway, a Baldwin, New York physician, pled guilty today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to illegally distribute the highly addictive painkiller oxycodone to patients, who the defendant knew were addicts and without performing any meaningful medical examination. When sentenced, Conway faces up to 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and loss of his license to practice medicine.
The guilty plea was announced by Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division, Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Thomas V. Dale, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department. The plea was entered before the Honorable Leonard D. Wexler at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip, New York.
Conway was arrested on June 6, 2012 as part of the Eastern District of New York’s Prescription Drug Initiative, led by the United States Attorney’s Office and the DEA, working with the Nassau County Police Department, the New York State Police and numerous other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. He has been held in custody since the arrest.
According to court filings and records of the New York State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, between January 2009 and November 2011, Conway issued 5,554 oxycodone prescriptions – for a total of 782,032 pills – to numerous individuals. During the execution of a federal search warrant at his offices on March 1, 2012, Conway surrendered his DEA registration authorizing him to prescribe controlled substances. Despite that surrender, Conway continued to engage in the conspiracy to illegally distribute oxycodone after that date.
On April 23, 2011, Giovanni Manzella, a 34 year-old man from Long Beach, New York, died of an overdose of oxycodone less than 48 hours after Conway provided him with two prescriptions totaling 450 pills. On October 27, 2011, 29 year-old Christopher Basmas of Hicksville, New York was pronounced dead of an overdose, also within two days after receiving a prescription from Conway for 180 pills of oxycodone. Patient files seized by the DEA revealed that neither man received meaningful medical examinations from Conway. The files for these and other patients typically consisted of little more than notations of a patient’s height, weight and blood pressure. After Basmas’ death, Conway attempted to alter patient files to cover his tracks, but still continued to issue prescriptions – in some instances, in the names of individuals he had never treated, or even met.
In September 2012, Conway’s office assistant, Robert Hachemeister, was charged with conspiring with Conway to illegally distribute oxycodone, and with distributing oxycodone to Conway’s patients. Hachemeister, who had worked as an office assistant for Conway since approximately 1995, distributed thousands of oxycodone pills using prescription pads that were pre-signed by Conway between 2011 and 2012. On January 9, 2013, Hachemeister pled guilty to conspiring to illegally distribute oxycodone and is currently awaiting sentencing.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Crowell stated, “One of DEA’s top priorities is to stop overdoses and deaths by fully identifying and prosecuting those responsible for putting diverted drugs in the hands of those abusing opiates. Dr. Conway has been tied to local overdoses that bring home the enormity of the country’s prescription pill epidemic. One out of every ten high school seniors has abused oxycodone or hydrocodone for recreational use. Investigating rogue doctors and increasing the awareness of the dangers associated with Rx abuse are two significant steps our law enforcement team takes to curtail this problem and to protect our communities.”
“Instead of providing needed medical services to his community, Dr. Conway directly contributed to the tragedy of prescription drug abuse that has swept across our district and our nation. On Conway’s watch, oxycodone pills might as well have been mints in a candy jar. Even the death of his patients only led him to try to conceal his actions, rather than truly care for his patients. Today’s conviction should serve as a warning to those who would violate their oath as medical professionals to do no harm: if you illegally distribute prescription drugs, you will be held accountable,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “I want to thank our partners at the DEA, Nassau County Police and the New York State Police for their effective work in investigating this case.”
The Prescription Drug Initiative is a joint effort led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the DEA and the five District Attorneys in Kings, Nassau, Queens, Richmond and Suffolk Counties, working in conjunction with the New York City Police Department and the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service, New York/New Jersey HIDTA, the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Medicaid Inspector General. The Prescription Drug Initiative is a broad and comprehensive approach to the epidemic of prescription drug trafficking and abuse, involving not only criminal investigation and prosecution at the federal, state and local level, but also the targeted use of civil law enforcement, regulatory action and community outreach. The Initiative has expanded information-sharing among federal and state enforcement agencies to better identify and target suspected traffickers, and ensure greater use of criminal, civil, forfeiture, injunctive and other tools.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sean C. Flynn and Michael P. Canty.
Name: WILLIAM J. CONWAY