Brooklyn, NY - October 2, 2014 - William Conway, a medical doctor who formerly ran a practice in Baldwin, New York, was sentenced today to a term of eight years’ imprisonment for conspiring to illegally distribute the highly-addictive narcotic oxycodone, to be followed by three years of supervised release. The sentence was pronounced by United States District Judge Leonard D. Wexler, who ruled last month that the defendant was responsible for the overdose death of a patient to whom he prescribed oxycodone for no legitimate medical purpose.
The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; James J. Hunt, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division, and Thomas C. Krumpter, Acting Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD).
Conway was arrested in June 2012 following a state and federal investigation into the defendant’s practice of issuing oxycodone prescriptions at an average of 163 per month between 2009 and 2011 -- a rate that equated to the distribution of over 782,000 pills. Conway’s office files revealed only cursory, incomplete examinations of patients, overlapping prescriptions to the same patients, and as one government witness put it, no effort to “try and fix the patient’s condition rather than perpetuate the use of the narcotics.”
During a hearing before Judge Wexler in May, the government presented evidence that the defendant prescribed large quantities of oxycodone to a patient, Giovanni Manzella, for no legitimate medical purpose and that the illegal distribution caused Manzella’s overdose death on April 23, 2011. Records showed that Conway issued Manzella five oxycodone prescriptions, totaling over 800 pills, over a six month period with little or no examination or diagnostic testing, such as an MRI, or any effort to ensure that the patient was not abusing the narcotic. Evidence also showed that Conway prescribed 180 oxycodone pills to Manzella on April 21, 2011, and then 24 hours later, prescribed Manzella an additional 270 oxycodone pills without performing any medical evaluation. Manzella died the next day. In an August 2014 written opinion, Judge Wexler noted, “Incredibly, Dr. Conway wants this Court to find that, when Manzella was under his medical supervision, somehow he was practicing medicine and prescribing oxycodone for a legitimate medical purpose.” Instead, Judge Wexler found that the government’s evidence “amply demonstrates that he prescribed oxycodone to Manzella for no legitimate medical purpose, and that Manzella died as a result of using the oxycodone prescribed by him.”
In announcing today’s sentence, United States Attorney Lynch stated, “Instead of using his skills as a physician to ‘do no harm,’ Conway perpetuated pain and suffering, inundating our communities with a highly addictive narcotic and causing the death of a young man struggling with substance abuse. This case should serve as a warning that health care professionals engaged in such conduct face not merely the loss of their privilege to practice medicine, but their liberty as well.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to each of the law enforcement agencies for their assistance in this case.
Oxycodone is a scheduled controlled substance that may be dispensed by medical professionals only for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of a doctor’s professional practice. It is a powerful and highly addictive drug and is increasingly abused because of its potency when crushed into a powder and ingested, leading to a heroin like euphoria.
This case was investigated by the DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad comprising agents and officers of the DEA, Nassau County Police Department, Rockville Centre Police Department and Port Washington Police Department. Conway’s conviction is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York as part of the Prescription Drug Initiative. In January 2012, this Office and the DEA, in conjunction with the five District Attorneys in this jurisdiction, the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments, the New York City Police Department, and New York State Police, along with other key federal, state, and local government partners, launched the Prescription Drug Initiative to mount a comprehensive response to what the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Center 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 160 federal and local criminal prosecutions, including the prosecution of 15 health care professionals, taken civil enforcement actions against a hospital, a pharmacy, and a pharmacy chain, removed prescription authority from numerous rogue doctors, and expanded information-sharing among enforcement agencies to better target and pursue drug traffickers. The Initiative also is involved in an extensive community outreach program to address the abuse of pharmaceuticals.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael P. Canty.
Name: William Conway
Residence: Baldwin, NY