NY radiologist arrested on prescription drug charges

2014 10 07 12 04 49 671 Scales Of Justice 200

A radiologist in western New York state has been arrested on charges that he allegedly distributed prescription drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone to several acquaintances between 2010 and 2014. Dr. Albert Cowie of Diagnostic Imaging Assoc. in Amherst faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

According to a complaint filed on April 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Cowie allegedly wrote 280 illegal prescriptions for controlled substances to three individuals he knew. After filling the prescriptions at local pharmacies, the individuals retained some of the drugs for personal use but returned the remainder to Cowie, allegedly for his own personal use, the complaint states.

Cowie also allegedly established a relationship with a prostitute he met at a strip club in the Buffalo, NY, area, providing the prostitute with $200 a day to support a heroin addiction, the complaint states. Cowie allegedly injected the prostitute with heroin on one occasion and also provided prescriptions for Xanax and Percocet.

Finally, the complaint charges that Cowie advised a witness to lie to investigators about alleged insurance fraud.

According to the complaint, officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began investigating Cowie after local police officers visited his home in Amherst, NY, in November 2013 to investigate a reported domestic disturbance. The officers allegedly discovered pill bottles and drug paraphernalia, such as hypodermic needles, and alerted the DEA.

In the course of their investigation, DEA agents came to believe that Cowie allegedly used his DEA registration numbers to dispense controlled substances to three acquaintances, including the prostitute. The complaint cites the testimony of four individuals who cooperated with the DEA, including one person who participated in a meeting with Cowie outside of his medical offices that was recorded by investigators.

During the meeting, Cowie allegedly told the individual four separate times to lie about the reason for the prescriptions he had issued, in response to a purported insurance investigation. Cowie allegedly told the witness to say they were for the treatment of back pain and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the complaint states.

The DEA investigators obtained records from state health authorities for Cowie's prescriptions; he allegedly issued 280 prescriptions between January 2010 and March 2014 for substances ranging from alprazolam to zolpidem, with most of the scripts for oxycodone. In meetings with DEA investigators in April and September 2014, Cowie allegedly told officials that he had been treating two of the individuals for psychiatric and pain issues.

In a press release, officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office said the arrest demonstrated that "illegal actions of those in the medical community" can make powerful narcotics available to people with serious opiate addiction.

When contacted on April 15, a receptionist at Diagnostic Imaging Assoc. confirmed that Cowie still worked at the facility, but that the practice did not know anything else about the case.

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