Indictments follow discovery of massive ‘pill mill’ in New York

Three individuals and two pharmacies face a host of criminal and civil charges for allegedly participating in a massive, multi-million-dollar scheme that used pharmacies to illegally distribute oxycodone pills in New York City. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced the indictments, which charged the parties with illegally distributing more than 500,000 pills of oxycodone worth between $10 million and $15 million over a five-year period.

Scheme

Two pharmacies located in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, European Apothecary, Inc., d/b/a Chopin Chemists and MW&W Global Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Chopin Chemists, allegedly conspired to illegally distribute oxycodone pills throughout New York City. In 2013, the DEA conducted an audit of one of the pharmacies and found that 400,000 pills were dispensed without prescriptions. According to the indictment, the pharmacies and their owner illegally diverted over 160,000 pills when they accepted 1,300 fraudulent prescriptions, including some that were made out in the names of luxury brands such as “Coach,” and “Chanel.” Additionally, the owner’s husband is alleged to have arranged for the illegal sale of the pills and the couple reportedly purchased a $2 million home in Connecticut with the proceeds of the illegal scheme.

Pill mill

According to the DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt, the pharmacies were operating a, “massive pill mill” under the guise of “mom and pop” businesses in Brooklyn and Queens. The DEA estimates that based on the large quantities of pills involved, the oxycodone ring was one of the largest illegal diversions of oxycodone pills ever uncovered in a pharmacy in the state.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “As alleged, they flooded the city with over half a million illegally diverted oxycodone pills based on obviously fake prescriptions or no prescription at all, helping fuel the growing crisis of prescription pill abuse.”

Charges

The parties face various charges including conspiracy to distribute narcotics, money laundering, and conspiracy to misbrand prescription drugs. The pharmacy owner was also charged with defrauding Medicare out of $750,000 for allegedly submitting reimbursement claims for medicine that was never dispensed. Additionally, a civil lawsuit was filed against the two pharmacies alleging violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the False Claims Act (FCA) (31 U.S.C. §3729 et seq.). The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in damages and civil penalties.