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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Amherst Doctor Sentenced For Obtaining Controlled Substances By Fraud And Health Care Fraud

CONTACT:      Barbara Burns
PHONE:         (716) 843-5817
FAX:            (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today Dr. Albert R. Cowie, 38, of Amherst, NY, who was convicted of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and health care fraud, was sentenced 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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “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. Some, those that we catch, must answer in the criminal justice system. Sadly, many that we don’t catch, must answer with their lives.  So my message today is that this Office will continue—with our law enforcement partners—aggressively to enforce the drug laws. We are not going to go away. Lives are at stake.  If you are using these drugs—no matter who you are—then you need to get help, because if you don’t, you will end up either dead or, if you’re lucky, in jail.”

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt stated, “This 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.” 

Assistant U.S. Attorney George C. Burgasser, who handled the case, stated that between January 2010 and March 22, 2014, the defendant, a practicing radiologist, wrote more than 200 illegal prescriptions for controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Percocet, and Hydrocodone. The prescriptions were distributed to an individual who then went to local pharmacies and had the scripts filled. The individual retained some of the controlled substances for personal use but returned the remainder of the narcotics to Cowie for his own use.

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.” 

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

The sentencing 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, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam S. Cohen; 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.

Updated February 2, 2017