Skip to main content
Press Release

Former Local Doctor Going To Prison For 5 Years For Illegally Distributing Controlled Substances

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

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

BUFFALO, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that James T. Keefe, 40, of Florida, who was convicted of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute, and distributing, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and amphetamine, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo. The defendant was also sentenced to serve five years supervised release to include six months home detention.

“This case highlights the powerful grip of addiction,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “The defendant was a medical professional and was well aware of the dangers of the illegal use of prescription medications, yet he created a web of accomplices which allowed him to obtain controlled substances and continue to fuel his addiction.”  

“Now, more than ever, the public entrusts doctors with their health and well-being.  Today’s sentence demonstrates that when a doctor betrays that trust and risks the welfare of others, there are very real consequences,” said DEA Special-Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan. “I applaud the hard work of our Buffalo District Office Diversion Investigators and Intelligence Analysts, as well as the fortitude of our colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York, who saw this case through.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Violanti, who handled the case, stated that the defendant was a New York State licensed physician who was previously employed as a contracted physician at the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, and the Monsignor Carr Institute. Between January 1, 2014, and February 23, 2018, Keefe conspired to divert, and diverted, Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances by issuing fraudulent prescriptions to his co-workers, friends, and drug-dealing and drug-using associates, including, co-defendants Benjamin Rivera, Laura Ricotta, Takeya Rainey, and Phousavath Luangrath. These prescriptions were issued without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice.

The defendant and co-defendant Rivera have been associates for several years. For nearly five years, Rivera sold cocaine to Keefe, who was active user of cocaine, Adderall, and prescription opiates. In January 2014, the defendant began issuing prescriptions in the names of Rivera and nine of Rivera’s relatives and associates to exchange for cocaine and for a share of the prescribed drugs. Neither Rivera nor any of his relatives or associates were patients of Keefe.

In April 2015, the defendant began issuing prescriptions to Rivera’s girlfriend, co-defendant Laura Ricotta. Keefe also used the names and personal information of six relatives and associates of Ricotta to issue fraudulent prescriptions. Neither Ricotta nor any of her relatives or associates were patients of the defendant. Keefe often drove Ricotta to a pharmacy to a pharmacy to fill the prescriptions, which the two then split.

In the summer of 2017, the defendant began issuing prescriptions to co-defendant Takeya Rainey. Rainey also provided the names of her relatives and associates to Keefe, none of whom were his patients. In exchange for the controlled substances, the defendant sometimes gave Rainey gift or Visa cash cards.

Beginning in January of 2017, Keefe and co-defendant Luangrath were involved in an intimate relationship. At some point, the defendant Luangrath agreed to allow the defendant to issue prescriptions in her name.

Between January 1, 2014, and February 23, 2018, the defendant issued 179 fraudulent prescriptions in his own name and the names of others, for Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances.

Defendants Rivera, Ricotta and Luangrath were previously convicted and sentenced. Rivera was sentenced to time served (28 months). Ricotta was also sentenced to time served (15 months). Luangrath was sentenced to serve one-year probation. Defendant Rainey was also previously convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

Today’s sentencing is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan.

# # # #

Updated May 21, 2021

Prescription Drugs