Weekly Feature

2017-02-15 / Front Page

Town doctor sentenced to 24 months for fraudulent transactions

Dr. Albert R. Cowie, 38, of Amherst, who was convicted of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and health care fraud, was sentenced on Tuesday to 24 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo.

“The purpose in publicizing today’s sentencing is not to try to shame or embarrass anyone, including Dr. Cowie, who unlawfully uses or distributes this poison,” acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said in a press release. “Rather, the purpose is to remind everyone — no matter who you are, whether you are a doctor or a derelict — that each of us will eventually be held accountable for the choices we make.”

James Hunt, a special agent in charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said the sentencing highlights a doctor’s crime and a drug user’s insidious cycle of addiction.

“The issuance of prescriptions of controlled substances for non-medical purposes is a federal crime that furthers opioid addiction. DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to identify those responsible,” he said in the press release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George C. Burgasser, who oversaw the case, said that between January 2010 and March 2014, Cowie, a practicing radiologist, wrote more than 200 illegal prescriptions for controlled substances such as oxycodone, Percocet and hydrocodone.

According to Burgasser, the prescriptions were distributed to an individual who then went to local pharmacies and had the scripts filled. He said the individual retained some of the controlled substances for personal use but returned the remainder of the narcotics to Cowie for his own use.

According to the press release, during a meeting between Cowie and a confidential witness, the doctor advised the witness to lie to insurance investigators about his alleged prescription fraud.

The release further said the witness is quoted as saying to Cowie, “Okay so just say they were written for me even though they were written for you — is what you’re saying?” According to the witness, Cowie confirmed that is what he meant.

As a result of the prescription fraud, Univera Health Care and HealthNow New York were fraudulently billed $20,482.83.

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