Dr. William Conway Faces Up To 20 Years In Prison

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York physician faces 20 years in prison after admitting he distributed painkillers to people he knew were drug addicts.

William Conway of Baldwin pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges Thursday.

Court documents show that between January 2009 and November 2011, Conway issued 5,554 oxycodone prescriptions for a total of 782,032 pills.

The 70-year-old doctor admitted knowing that some of those people who got prescriptions had no medical reason for the painkillers.

“Some of the prescriptions I wrote went to individuals who I knew were addicted to oxycodone,” Conway said.

Two of those who received painkiller prescriptions — 34-year-old Giovanni Manzella and 29-year-old Christopher Basmas — later died of overdoses.

On Thursday Conway gave up his license to practice medicine in front of a hushed federal courtroom CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported. Several relatives of those who died attended Thursday’s court proceeding in Central Islip.

Basmas died of an overdose on Oct. 27, 2011, two days after getting a prescription from Conway for 180 pills of oxycodone, prosecutors said.

The victim’s sister, Cynthia Russo, shouted at the doctor in court, “You killed my brother.”

Cynthia Russo, sister of victim Christopher Basmas. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Cynthia Russo, sister of victim Christopher Basmas. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

“I felt that this man doesn’t understand the impact of his actions and what he did,” Russo said. “I felt something needed to be said and a face needed to be put together with the crime.”

Manzella died of an overdose on April 23, 2011, less than 48 hours after Conway gave him two prescriptions for 450 pills.

“He took an oath to help people and he violated that oath. It’s terrible,” Manzella’s mother, Lucy, said.

“I think the doctor was insane. Now he’s gotta pay the price,” Manzella’s father, John, said.

After his patients’ deaths, prosecutors said Conway attempted to alter patient files, while continuing to issue prescriptions for controlled substances to individuals he never treated, or even met.

Conway was nabbed along with 97 others during a sweep by the feds that was aimed at cracking down on doctors suspected of illegally distributing painkillers on Long Island. The sweep was prompted by a shooting at a Medford pharmacy that left four people dead.

“On Conway’s watch, oxycodone pills might as well have been mints in a candy jar,” stated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. “Even the death of his patients only led him to try to conceal his actions, rather than truly care for his patients. Today’s conviction should serve as a warning to those who would violate their oath as medical professionals to do no harm: if you illegally distribute prescription drugs, you will be held accountable.”

The doctor’s attorney noted Conway made no admission linking him specifically to the deaths, and suggested that his client was duped by “doctor shoppers.”

“He’s really such a good guy, he believes anything people tell him,” attorney Richard Langone said.

Conway has been in custody since his arrest last June. His guilty plea means that he will serve  20 years and will be released from prison when he is 90.

His office assistant pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in January and is awaiting sentencing.

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