While doctors improperly selling narcotic drugs is not unusual, Dr.Matthew Bennett is alleged to have illegally written prescriptions in exchange for goods and services including toilet paper.
Yesterday, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Niagara County Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at Bennett's North Tonawanda, New York medical office. A similar warrant was executed at Bennett's home where he was arrested. He faces one charge of knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully distributing a controlled substance.
Bennett appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York and was released from custody. The Iranian born physician was required to surrender his passport.
According to an affidavit filed with the court and unsealed yesterday, numerous sources provided information that since February, 2012, Bennett has been prescribing controlled substances while not adhering to proper medical principles. It is alleged that people would go to his office and obtain a prescription for drugs. The patient would decide on the potency and quantity of the drugs and Bennett is alleged not to have conducted medical examinations or kept patient records showing the drugs were medically necessary.
William Hocul, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, was quoted by WKBW as saying, "In exchange for providing these prescriptions, [he] would accept things like large quantities of paper towel, toilet paper and most recently a gas grill."
James Burns, of the DEA, was quoted by WIVB as saying, "It doesn't make a difference if you're a drug dealer standing on the corner or a physician wearing a white jacket. If you're diverting legal pharmaceuticals to the illicit market, you're a drug dealer just the same."
The Buffalo News reports Bennett also wrote prescriptions in exchange for services such as landscaping at his home and home repairs. Neighbours said that instead of a company, with employees who arrive in commercial vehicles to do the work, there were many "strangely behaving individuals" working at the doctor's home and the people who arrived there kept changing.
The newspaper also reports Bennett's case is similar to that of Dr. Pravinchandra Mehta. The Niagara Falls physician was arrested early last year on felony drug distribution charges. Authorities claim many of Mehta's patients began seeing Bennett after the arrest.
If convicted, Bennett could be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail. He is due to appear again in court on Thursday.