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Owner of Bronx clinic, 23 others indicted in illegal distribution of oxycodone  

NEW YORK – Federal, state and city law enforcement officials announced today the unsealing of an Indictment against 24 defendants in connection with a massive drug distribution ring that operated out of a purported medical clinic with multiple locations in the Bronx, New York, known as “Astramed,” and unlawfully distributed more than five million tablets of the prescription painkiller oxycodone over a three-year period.

The participants in the distribution ring included doctors, clinic employees, and drug traffickers who oversaw crews of “patients” who they sent into the clinics in order to obtain medically unnecessary prescriptions. The prescriptions were then filled at pharmacies, and the resulting pills resold on the streets of New York and elsewhere.

Twenty-one defendants were arrested Tuesday in connection with the charges.

“The world of prescription drug trafficking is looking more and more like the world of old-school trafficking in narcotics like heroin, cocaine and crack. In this case, the drug spot was a clinic controlled by traffickers, often through intimidation and violence,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.  “The traffickers were supplied with prescriptions by corrupt doctors and clinic employees, dispensed to lower-level ‘pretend’ patients so that massive quantities of oxycodone could be distributed wherever the most money could be made, often in communities hundreds of miles away.”

Oxycodone is a highly addictive, prescription narcotic-strength opioid used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions. More than 13 million Americans abuse oxycodone, with the misuse of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone leading to as many as 500,000 annual emergency room visits. Oxycodone prescriptions have enormous cash value to street level drug dealers, who can fill the prescriptions at most pharmacies and resell the resulting pills at vastly inflated rates.

From approximately January 2011 until January 2014, a drug distribution ring centered at “Astramed,” a purported medical clinic with multiple locations in the Bronx, including a primary location on Southern Boulevard (the “Clinic”), unlawfully diverted and trafficked millions ofoxycodone tablets, which netted participants in the distribution scheme hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds.

Astramed was owned and operated by Kevin Lowe, of Kingston NY, a medical doctor, who allegedly reaped millions of dollars by charging cash for the thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions written by the clinic doctors (the “Doctors”). The doctors, all from either New York City or various Hudson Valley locations, were corrupt, Board-certified, state-licensed doctors who, in exchange for cash, were willing to write medically unnecessary prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone. The Clinic typically charged $300 in the form of a money order for “doctor visits” that usually lasted just a minute or two, involved no actual physical examination, and consistently resulted in the issuance of a prescription for large doses of oxycodone.