The Baldwin pharmacist arrested on Monday during a federal raid was released on bail and is allowed to continue to operate his pharmacy under certain restrictions.
Lutful Chowdhury pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and fentanyl, two highly addictive pain medications, to customers he knew had forged prescriptions. Drug Enforcement Agency investigators picked the 62-year-old up at AIM Pharmacy & Surgical, where he is the owner.
Chowdhury was released on $250,000 bond following his arraignment at U.S. District Court in Central Islip. He surrendered his passport and is subject to random home and employment visits.
He can still work at his store but he is restricted as to what pharmaceuticals he can dispense, according to Robert Nardoza, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The pharmacist was previously arrested in July and pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and illegally distributing drugs.
According to officials, between May 2006 and September 2011, Chowdhury not only distributed the commonly abused painkillers to customers with stolen or fake prescriptions, but also allegedly told them not to repeatedly use the same name to avoid detection by the DEA.
Defense attorney William Petrillo told The Associated Press that Chowdury “enjoys loyal support of many in the community and plans to aggressively challenge these allegations in court.”
The investigation into the Chowdury started in April 2010 after a woman accused of being under the influence of drugs was involved in a fatal accident in Hempstead.
Prosecutors allege that the painkillers the woman used were from AIM Pharmacy. That case is still pending.
Attention to prescription painkiller abuse has been on the rise on Long Island after two deadly pharmacy robberies last year. In June, David Laffer killed four people during a pharmacy robbery in Medford and on New Year’s Eve a thwarted Seaford pharmacy holdup claimed two lives, including a federal agent who tried to intervene.
As a result, police have been cracking down on prescription drug abuse. Dr. Stan Li of Queens, who allegedly filled prescriptions for Laffer, was arrested in November and Dr. Frank Telang of Port Jefferson Station was arrested in December.
Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, said he hopes such arrests deter others from breaking the law.
“High profile law enforcement efforts send a clear message to other health care professionals profiting from drug diversion that the game is over,” he said. “And it probably gets the others to think twice before writing scripts or dispensing meds with no questions asked.”
If convicted, Chowdhury could face 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.