Tameshwar Ammar is a Long Island doctor who pleaded guilty on Monday afternoon to illegally prescribing the opioid oxycodone to two patients — one of whom prosecutors allege Ammar knew was a drug dealer, and another who died.
Ammar, who prosecutors called a “reckless drug dealer,” took a plea deal with federal prosecutors, pleading guilty to one charge of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent. However, during his telephonic sentencing hearing, he admitted that he had prescribed “thousands” of pills to one individual in exchange for money, cocaine and steroids.
Ammar has given up his medical license, according to his defense attorney, John Carman, and pleaded guilty by phone rather than wait for the coronavirus pandemic to ease, in order to get drug treatment within the prison system quicker.
Here’s what you need to know:
According to Prosecutors, Ammar Prescribed More Than 19,000 Oxycodone Pills to 2 Men — One of Whom Later Died of an Overdose & Had Known Psychiatric Issues
Ammar, 52, an anesthesiologist, ran a private clinic called Age Management Associates in Roslyn, New York. Federal agents arrested him in November 2019, alleging that since 2013, he had been illegally prescribing thousands of oxycodone pills, according to prosecutors. Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from poppies and often abused for a similar high to heroin, fentanyl and morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
New York State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement records showed that he prescribed more than 19,000 pills to the two men, prosecutors said in court documents.
“John Doe 1,” as he is referred to in court documents, was a drug dealer, and Ammar was aware of that fact, prosecutors allege. Meanwhile, they pointed to a history of “doctor-shopping” and psychiatric issues on the part of “John Doe 2.”
There was a note in John Doe 2’s medical file warning against prescribing him oxycodone, reading: “DISCONTINUED FROM TAKING OXYCODONE … COULD BE DANGEROUS TO HIS BIPOLAR DISORDER,” Newsday reported.
“Indeed, even after he was warned about prescribing oxycodone or methadone to John Doe 2, following a psychiatric episode in which John Doe 2 was hospitalized, [Ammar] continued to prescribe [him], not only with oxycodone, but with a dangerous pharmaceutical cocktail consisting of methadone and alprazolam,” prosecutors wrote in a letter to Judge Steven Locke.
Two weeks after his final prescription from Ammar, in 2017, prosecutors said, John Doe 2 died of an overdose of oxycodone, methadone and ketamine. Investigators also found ketamine in Ammar’s office during a search in 2019.
According to prosecutors, Doe 2 had also attempted suicide three times before, when Ammar was prescribing to him.
Ammar Traded 11,000 Pills to John Doe 1 for Sale on the Street in Exchange for Cocaine, Money & Steroids, Prosecutors Said
Prosecutors allege that John Doe 1 was a drug dealer, and that he made that known to Ammar when he became his patient. Still Ammar prescribed him 11,000 oxycodone pills, in addition to amphetamines and benzodiazepines, according to court documents.
In all, the street value of the oxycodones Ammar prescribed Doe 1 equaled almost $182,000, prosecutors alleged. In exchange, Ammar got cocaine and steroids from Doe 1. And Ammar did not even appear to have examined Doe 1 before writing him any of the prescriptions, according to court documents.
“The obviously illegal nature of the defendant’s relationship with John Doe 1 is demonstrated by the defendant’s full medical records,” federal prosecutors wrote. “The records contained no diagnostic proof of injury and instead consisted almost entirely of an intake form and a list of prescriptions. In fact, there is not a single note of examination or patient progress in the defendant’s medical file for John Doe 1.”
Prosecutors also said that Ammar and Doe 1 talked on the phone much more than is usual for a doctor-patient relationship: More than 170 times in six months. Prosecutors said those communications would serve as evidence for a conspiracy if the case went to trial. Investigators also watched as Ammar met with Doe 1 in a Roslyn parking lot in August 2016 and took cocaine and steroids from him, according to court documents.
On Monday, Ammar Pleaded Guilty to One Charge & Said That He Wanted to Get Treatment for a Substance Abuse Disorder
In a hearing held via conference call on Monday afternoon, Ammar’s attorney, John Carman, acknowledged that Ammar had tested positive for drugs several times while on bail and said, despite the coronavirus pandemic, he wanted to plead out his case and be sentenced as soon as possible in order to get drug treatment in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley King agreed.
“It would be in interest of justice to proceed [telephonically] to move forward more rapidly, so Ammar can, as appropriate, make an application to the court for possible drug treatment,” King said.
Carman also told Judge Denis Hurley that Ammar has surrendered his medical license.
Prosecutors had argued against Ammar’s release on bail, alleging that he was both a danger and a flight risk, with assets held in shell companies and friends in Guayana and on a Caribbean Island, Newsday reported. Still, he was released on $500,000 bail last November.
Ammar said little during his hearing Monday, but he did tell Hurley that he prescribed oxycodone to two patients “for no medical purpose,” in exchange for money, cocaine and steroids.
“I knew it was wrong,” Ammar said.
Hurley said that Ammar “impressed [him] as a bright individual,” and with his voluntary admission and the strength of prosecutors’ case, accepted his plea despite the circumstances.
Ray Donovan, the FBI special agent in charge of the case, said in a release after the hearing that Ammar’s greed had caused a lot of suffering.
“Dr. Ammar’s plea shows us that his motivation was greed, not the welfare and health of his patients,” Donovan said. “Instead of healing, he chose a dangerous path of causing addiction, overdose and overwhelming suffering to many.”
Ammar’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23, according to King. He faces up to 20 years in prison and agreed to forfeit $245,700, prosecutors said.