Feds charge LI pharmacist over painkillers

A Baldwin pharmacist charged last June with unlawfully providing drugs to a woman charged with manslaughter, was charged Monday with illegally distributing oxycodone. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Feb. 27, 2012)

A Baldwin pharmacist dispensed a large number of painkillers over five years, knowing the prescriptions were fraudulent and the customers were drug abusers, a federal indictment charged Monday.

Prosecutors contend that Lutful Chowdhury, 62, whose arrest Monday morning by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents was his second since July, continued to sell the painkillers even after one of his customers in 2010 struck and killed a woman mowing her lawn while authorities said she was driving high on drugs.

Chowdhury, of Westbury, was charged with conspiracy to illegally distribute large quantities of oxycodone and another powerful painkiller, fentanyl, between May 2006 and September 2011.

In 2010, Chowdhury filled prescriptions for 120,500 doses of the painkiller oxycodone at his Aim Pharmacy and Surgical Corp., 1655 Grand Ave., prosecutors said. The average pharmacy in New York State dispensed 54,330 doses in 2010, while the average U.S. pharmacy dispensed 69,449, federal authorities said.

At Chowdhury's arraignment in federal district court in Central Islip, Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Tierney noted that the alleged illegal sales continued beyond April 2010, when Nassau County prosecutors charged a client of the pharmacy, Kayla Gerdes, then 18, of Freeport, after she allegedly ran over and killed Rebecca Twine, 69, as Twine mowed the front lawn of her home.

Chowdhury knowingly sold drugs to people who gave him "hundreds" of stolen or false prescriptions, according to Tierney.

He did not say how many customers were involved or how they obtained the stolen prescriptions.

As part of his scheme, prosecutors contend, Chowdhury counseled customers to avoid repeatedly using the same name on prescriptions, to avoid the suspicion of the DEA, which monitors drug sales, according to a bail letter Tierney filed.

Further, Chowdhury forged his records to falsely make it appear as if he had contacted the doctors whose prescriptions he was ostensibly filling to ensure that the prescriptions were legitimate, according to the letter.

Chowdhury pleaded not guilty at his arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson, who released him on $250,000 bond.

William Petrillo, Chowdhury's attorney, said his client "enjoys the support of many in the community and plans to aggressively challenge these allegations in court."

Chowdhury was charged last year in Nassau with possession of a forged instrument and diversion of prescription medication, following a DEA investigation into how Gerdes obtained the drugs she used. Gerdes has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in connection with Twine's death and awaits trial.

With Gary Dymski

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