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Former Buffalo doctor charged with allegedly writing 178 fraudulent prescriptions

Dr. James T. Keefe, a former physician at Erie County Medical Center, Mercy Hospital and the Monsignor Carr Institute, was charged Friday by federal prosecutors with allegedly writing 178 fraudulent prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances for four alleged drug users, including his ex-girlfriend.

U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy III said in a news release that a criminal complaint named Keefe, 38, who now lives in Florida, and the four others, all of whom were medical professionals.

They are Phousavath Luangrath, 29, of Buffalo, an ECMC nurse and Keefe's ex-girlfriend; Laura Ricotta, 27, of Williamsville, and her boyfriend, Benjamin Rivera, 40, of Buffalo; and Takeya Rainey, 43, of Buffalo.

The prescriptions, totaling 9,718 dosage units, were allegedly written in 2017 and early 2018. The Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating Keefe's prescriptions in February.

He surrendered his license to prescribe controlled substances on March 6.

Keefe, a former East Amherst resident, was allegedly a user of cocaine, Adderol and prescription opiates, federal prosecutors said. The complaint said he was fired by all three previous employers, most recently by ECMC, where his last day was Sept. 4, 2017. He allegedly continued to issue prescriptions after that.

Keefe appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer Friday and was released on conditions.

The others made their initial appearances Wednesday. Rainey, Ricotta and Luangrath were released, but Rivera, a convicted drug dealer paroled Dec. 13, was jailed.

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