Feb 09, 2014 News
A Guyanese doctor is among 23 persons facing federal charges for illegally prescribing drugs used in street sales. Dr. Kevin Lowe, formerly of Campbellville, Georgetown has been living in the United States for a number of years.
A New York Times report said that the man owns the Astramed clinic, located at 1228 Southern Boulevard in the Bronx NY, where for the past three years, he illegally prescribed the painkiller oxycodone; raking in for himself alone, some $12M.
According to the report, Lowe was involved in the drug scheme which
occurred at his clinic, but was actually controlled by drug traffickers. Hundreds of persons, it is alleged, gathered outside the clinic daily to get a prescription.
“The clinic was controlled by drug traffickers, and the patients, doctors, prescriptions — and even urine samples — were part of a vast and elaborate scheme to divert oxycodone for sale on the street.” The report continued that, “a federal indictment charges that in the operation, corrupt doctors were paid $300 in cash for fraudulent medical visits that lasted a minute or two; involved no physical examination and consistently led to the writing of prescriptions for large doses of oxycodone.”
“Over three years, Astramed doctors wrote about 31,500 medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone, encompassing about 5.5 million oxycodone tablets with a street value of up to $550 million,” government court filing related.
Federal prosecutors said that members of the oxycodone ring used threats, intimidation and violence to protect their access to the clinic and its doctors, and had armed bodyguards who remained near the clinic. “The federal indictment charges Dr. Lowe, the owner of the clinic and others in the city, and 23 other people in connection with the scheme. Dr. Lowe alone collected nearly $12 million in fees over three years in the scheme,” prosecutors said.
Lowe, who pleaded not guilty, was granted home detention if he meets certain conditions of a $5 million bond. His lawyer, Robert W. Dapelo, the report said, maintained that, “His (Lowe) position is that he’s innocent and when the dust settles, you will see that the allegations made by the government are not true.” Another clinic doctor, Robert Terdiman, faces state charges of conspiracy and illegal prescription sales. He too pleaded not guilty.
The indictment says that Dr. Lowe occasionally saw purported patients and wrote unnecessary oxycodone prescriptions, but he also hired other doctors and directed them to write such prescriptions, and paid the doctors based on the number of prescriptions they wrote.
It is alleged that, “since June 2012, Dr. Terdiman wrote about 18,700 prescriptions to over 4,200 people. An analysis of his records showed those prescriptions yielded about three million pills, with a street value of more than $90 million,” the report said.
“Most of the people who crowded outside the Astramed clinic in the Bronx had been recruited and paid by oxycodone distributors, known as crew chiefs, to pose as patients to receive the medically unnecessary prescriptions.” The indictment said, “These recruits were typically paid up to $500 for obtaining and handing over the oxycodone obtained. The crew chiefs also paid clinic employees hundreds of dollars in cash to get their recruits into the clinic to see a doctor. The “patients” could also pay extra to skip to the front of the line.”
It is alleged that, “one crew chief recruited “patients” by targeting people who are H.I.V.-positive or who have AIDS and other illnesses and “who therefore were more likely to have established relationships with pharmacies that could fill prescriptions obtained at the clinic.”
The clinic also served people who were not part of the operation, like addicts and drug dealers, who could gain access to the clinic by paying an “admission” fee of $1,000 or more, the indictment charges.
Oxycodone is a highly addictive, narcotic-strength painkiller, and its prescriptions have enormous cash value to drug dealers, the indictment stated. A 30-milligram tablet has a street value of $30 to $40 in New York City, and a value as high as $100 in other parts of the country. A single prescription for 180 of those tablets can net a distributor as much as $18,000 in cash.
“The world of prescription drug trafficking is looking more and more like the world of old-school trafficking in narcotics like heroin, cocaine and crack,” the United States attorney Preet Bharara was quoted as saying. It was added that more people have been dying from prescription drug abuse than heroin and cocaine combined.
Head of the NY office of Drug Enforcement Administration, James J. Hunt said the arrests were part of dismantling “the largest pill mill in the Northeast.” The investigation involved at least a dozen cooperating sources, confidential informers and undercover agents, prosecutors said.
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