U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York
(716) 843-5700
April 15, 2015

Amherst Doctor Arrested for Distributing Controlled Substances and Obtaining Prescriptions by Fraud

BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., announced today that Dr. Albert R. Cowie, 36, of Amherst, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance by fraud, and conspiracy to commit a drug felony. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine or both.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George C. Burgasser, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, between January 25, 2010 and March 22, 2014, the defendant, a practicing radiologist, wrote 280 illegal prescriptions for controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Percocet, and Hydrocodone. The prescriptions were distributed to three individuals who then went to local pharmacies and had the scripts filled. According to the complaint, the individuals retained some of the controlled substances for personal use but returned the remainder of the narcotics to Cowie for his own use.

The complaint states that the defendant also established a relationship with a prostitute he met at an area strip club. As the relationship continued, Cowie provided $200 a day to the prostitute to support a heroin addiction. The defendant allegedly also injected the prostitute with heroin on one occasion. Subsequently, the defendant gave the prostitute prescriptions for Xanax and Percocet.

The complaint further states that during a meeting between Cowie and a confidential witness, the defendant advised the witness to lie to insurance investigators about his alleged prescription fraud. The witness is quoted as saying to the defendant “okay so just say they were written for me even though they were written for you…is what you’re saying? Cowie replied “right.”

“At a time when many in this community continue to struggle with serious opiate addiction, today’s arrest reveals that such powerful narcotics can sometimes become available for abuse because of the illegal actions of those in the medical community, said U.S. Attorney Hochul.”

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt stated, “Not only was Dr. Cowie abusing his power to write prescriptions for pain medication, he was abusing the prescription pills himself. As a health care professional, Dr. Cowie should have known better, but this case proves that opiate addiction is a threat to everyone, to all socio and economic strata.” SAC Hunt would like to commend the DEA Buffalo Resident Office and the United States Attorney’s Office Western District of New York for their diligent work on this investigation.

The criminal complaint is the culmination of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, under the direction of NYS Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, and the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Askey.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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