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Prosecutors: Addiction doctor bought cocaine, heroin over 'dark web'

Dr. Torin Finver never hid his past. He spoke openly about being a recovering addict.

Finver often drew from his firsthand experiences with drug addiction to connect to his patients as the medical director of Horizon Health Addiction Services and the Kids Escaping Drugs Renaissance House. He is also the director of the University at Buffalo Medical School's addiction recovery program and a doctor specializing in substance abuse treatment.

"In his own life, Finver has recovered from addiction, and his personal experiences have given him a unique perspective on the far-reaching effects that addiction can have on individuals, families and societies," reads a short bio about Finver on UB's list of faculty experts.

But it appears Finver's demons still haunted him.

On Monday, Finver, 54, was arrested at his home on Columbia Avenue in Hamburg and charged with importing a controlled substance, U.S. Attorney John P. Kennedy's office announced Tuesday. If convicted, Finver faces as many as 20 years in prison.

An investigation by Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other law enforcement agencies intercepted four packages addressed to Finver at his home address. Three contained cocaine and the fourth contained heroin.

Just after 2:30 p.m. Monday, a controlled delivery of one of those packages – with the drugs removed – was made to Finver, who accepted the parcel. A few minutes later, law enforcement officers served a search and seizure warrant on the doctor at his home off Lake Shore Drive.

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, Finver waived his Miranda rights and revealed that he had been ordering heroin and cocaine over the "dark web" using bitcoin to pay for the drugs. He said he ordered controlled substances from the dark web seven times in the last two months, according to court papers.

Finver told investigators that he would snort the heroin and cocaine. He also said he had a box of synthetic urine which he kept in the basement that he used to pass his weekly required drug tests, the complaint said.

"No one's immune from addiction," Kennedy said at a news conference Wednesday at his office in downtown Buffalo. "And no one is above the law. It is, honestly, a very sad day."

Finver's arrest follows that of former Kenmore Police Chief Peter J. Breitnauer on a drug possession charge this fall. Prosecutors said Breitnauer admitted an addiction to painkillers and to taking pills from a medication drop box at the Kenmore Police Station. Kennedy's office said earlier this month that Breitnauer would plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge in federal court.

In the wake of his arrest, Finver can't practice medicine, said Anne Constantino, who is Horizon's president and CEO.

He is no longer treating Horizon's patients, a Horizon spokeswoman said.

There's no indication that he was supplying drugs to patients or obtaining controlled substances through his work, Kennedy and Constantino both said.

"The medical community is stepping up and offering to help," Constantino said.

Colleagues at Horizon were saddened to learn about Finver's arrest, she said.

Finver, who specialized in treating substance abuse, was passionate about his work and played a key role in developing Horizon's addiction treatment services at Terrace House on Elm Street.

"If anything, this is an illustration of how difficult of a public health problem this is going to be to get our arms around," Constantino said.

UB spokesman John Della Contrada said Finver is on the faculty of the medical school but has no other duties at UB.

"The university is aware of Dr. Finver's arrest and is gathering more information," Della Contrada said in a written statement.

"At this time, the university has no reason to believe that the charges are related to Dr. Finver's duties at the university. The university has a process in place to address instances where an employee is accused of a crime. We will take necessary steps to respond, with the understanding that all people accused of a crime are presumed innocent unless proven guilty," Della Contrada added.

The investigation began on Nov. 21, when according to prosecutors, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted a padded mailer that was addressed to Finver's residence and later learned that the sender information indicated it was from a phony address – a pet accessories company in California. It was actually sent from Germany. Inside the parcel were three grams of a white powdery substance, which tested positive for cocaine, prosecutors said.

U.S. postal inspectors intercepted another package addressed to Finver on Dec. 10. The parcel was "excessively taped," had a prepaid shipping label from "EasyPost" and came from California, court records said. A drug-sniffing dog indicated that it could contain a controlled substance, prosecutors said.

A search warrant was executed and investigators found three small envelopes with a brown rock-like substance, which tested positive for heroin.

Two similar heavily sealed packages addressed to Finver were intercepted on Dec. 12 and 15, and a subsequent search warrant was executed. The substances inside one of them tested positive for cocaine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.  The second parcel remained in the custody of law enforcement, prosecutors said.

Finver made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer and was released on conditions, officials said. He did not have an attorney at his appearance and he could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Buffalo News Staff Reporter Harold McNeil contributed to this story.

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