Doctor's aide in oxycodone case pleads guilty

Robert Hachemeister, Dr. William Conway's assistant, leaves federal

Robert Hachemeister, Dr. William Conway's assistant, leaves federal court in Central Islip. (Jan. 9, 2012) (Credit: James Carbone)

A longtime aide to a Baldwin doctor charged with causing the deaths of two patients by overprescribing the painkiller oxycodone pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to distribute the drug and agreed to testify against the physician.

Robert Hachemeister, 67, also of Baldwin, a 20-year employee of Dr. William Conway, said in a statement that "I agreed with Dr. Conway to write and issue individual prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances, which both I and Dr. Conway knew were not for legitimate medical purposes."

Hachemeister read the statement to U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler in federal district court in Central Islip.

He told Wexler some prescriptions "I and Dr. Conway wrote and issued went to individuals whom I knew were addicted to oxycodone . . . I often filled out prescriptions for oxycodone that Dr. Conway had pre-signed in advance. All of my conduct in this regard was done specifically at Dr. Conway's direction."

Hachemeister, who was known by many patients as "Dr. Bob," and Conway were both charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone in September. In addition, Conway was charged with causing the overdose deaths of two patients in 2011, Giovanni Manzella, 34, of Long Beach, and Christopher Basmas, 29, of Hicksville.

Conway, who is imprisoned awaiting trial on the charges, has pleaded not guilty.

The charges were part of a crackdown by federal officials on the illegal distribution of painkillers on Long Island by medical personnel. The issue was highlighted by the murder of four people by drug-addicted David Laffer during the June 2011 robbery of a Medford pharmacy. Hachemeister's attorney, Anthony La Pinta, said his client "has taken responsibility for his terrible mistakes and is attempting to rectify them."

La Pinta said that Hachemeister, whatever he may have done, was not involved in dispensing oxycodone to either Manzella or Basmas. Reached by telephone, Conway's attorney, Richard Langone, said Hachemeister was supposed to be a witness for his client's defense.

"He is pleading guilty now because he's scared to death of going to prison," Langone said. "We have no fear of Bob Hachemeister's testimony if he tells the truth. If he tells the truth, he will not hurt Dr. Conway."

Hachemeister faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced. He was released on $150,000 bail. Conway, who faces up to life in prison, is scheduled for trial in March.

Eastern District federal prosecutor Sean Flynn declined to comment on either case.

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