Clarence doctor pleads guilty to illegally prescribing painkillers

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A doctor from Clarence now admits writing illegal prescriptions in exchange for personal favors, paper products, and a gas grill.

Matthew Bennett, 49, pleaded guilty, Monday in federal court, to illegally distributing and dispensing oxycodone — a powerful prescription painkiller. Prosecutors said Bennett gave prescriptions to undercover officers without a proper medical examination.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul announced the guilty plea following Bennett’s appearance before U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara.

“This particular defendant was willing to barter people’s lives,” he said.

Prosecutors said agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration acted on a tip to launch an investigation two years ago that led to Bennett’s arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lynch explained how undercover police put together the government’s case in a short period of time.

“Alleged that Dr. Bennett was providing scripts in exchange for work around his house, in exchange for products, and using that source, they were able to get the undercover officers in to see Dr. Bennett.”

Federal officials accused Bennett of conducting his illegal business mostly at his office in North Tonawanda, which was raided in the course of the investigation.

They also raided Bennett’s home in Clarence, where some other prescriptions were written. Hochul said Bennett is the 5th doctor in Western New York to be convicted, or charged with, illegally prescribing narcotics.

“We simply will not allow any person, regardless of title, regardless of stature, regardless of wealth or neighborhood, to evade the strict standards set forth in federal law for dealing with these high potency drugs.”

Lynch added, abuse of painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, often lead to heroin abuse, and federal prosecutors will pursue medical practitioners who abuse their authority.

“Understand that the Drug Enforcement Administration and our office is going to thoroughly investigate and, in the appropriate cases, prosecute these doctors, or nurses, or nurse practitioners who are unlawfully providing these scripts.”

As part of his guilty plea, Matthew Bennett surrendered his medical license and his DEA registration to sell narcotics. He must also pay the government $19,000.

Bennett faces a maximum prison term of 46 to 57 months when he is sentenced in July.

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