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No bail for Baldwin doctor in drug case

Federal agents raided the office of Dr. William

Federal agents raided the office of Dr. William Conway in Baldwin and carried out about a half-dozen boxes of records in February. Conway was arrested in June 2012 along with 97 other people in a massive federal and local investigation of illegal prescription painkillers. He was charged with illegally distributing 780,000 oxycodone pills. (Feb. 29, 2012) Credit: Jim Staubitser

A federal judge Tuesday refused to set bail for a Baldwin doctor charged with illegally distributing painkillers, despite the presence of 18 former patients who came up with a $1.1 million bail package.

Judge Leonard Wexler said he was swayed by a federal prosecutors' argument that William Conway prescribed painkillers even after surrendering his Drug Enforcement Administration registration in February, and therefore could not be trusted to stop doling out pills.

Conway, who was arrested with 98 others in June during a crackdown on prescription drug trafficking, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in federal court in Central Islip Tuesday on charges of illegally distributing painkillers such as oxycodone to patients. He is also responsible for the deaths of two patients who overdosed on the potent narcotic, court papers say.

"There is a risk to the community and bail is denied," Wexler said. "He turned in his DEA registration and continued to give prescriptions, which particularly moves this court."

Eighteen ex-patients showed up at the hearing to show support for Conway, including four who said they would have put the value of their homes toward his bail.

"We love this man," said Yvonne Oliver, 49, of Island Park, whose $450,000 home was part of the proposed package. "He cares about people, not money."

In arguing against bail, federal prosecutor Sean Flynn laid out a new wrinkle in the government's case against Conway, alleging that he still owes more than $100,000 in unpaid taxes from an original $311,000 tax debt.

The Baldwin-based doctor, who has closed his practice, failed to pay income taxes every year from 1994 until 2001, Flynn said in court.

Conway also owes $1 million to a patient who won a malpractice lawsuit against him, Flynn said, and was improperly prescribing pills to drug addicts to amass cash, Flynn said.

Flynn said the doctor has already confessed to improperly prescribing pills to patients, including Christopher Basmas, 29, and Giovanni Manzella, 34, of Long Beach, both of whom died after overdosing.

"I should have known better," Conway told agents, according to Flynn.

Conway's attorney, Richard Langone, of Garden City, denied that his client committed any crime. He described him as a caring, altruistic doctor who nearly became a priest, and treated many patients free of charge.

"He is not the man the government is portraying," Langone said.

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