OCT 23 (NEW YORK) –Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, today announced charges against nine individuals – Paul Wiseberg, Robert Kalaba, Gerald Wiseberg, Stephanie Tomasini, Lana Wiseberg, Emmanuel Antonio, and three pharmacists, Daniel Podell, Howard Hirsh, and Lawrence Zaslow – for their alleged participation in a multimillion-dollar oxycodone distribution ring. The alleged conspiracy involved the distribution of oxycodone and other controlled substances from three pharmacies in New York and New Jersey to customers in Florida who had no legitimate medical need for the drugs.
All the defendants were arrested this morning. Kalaba, Podell, Hirsh, and Zaslow will be presented in Manhattan federal court later today. Paul Wiseberg, Gerald Wiseberg, Lana Wiseberg, Tomasini, and Antonio will appear in the Southern District of Florida later today. In addition to the arrests, multiple search warrants were executed and bank accounts restrained in connection with today’s charges.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, these nine defendants, including three licensed pharmacists, created and operated a ring for the illegitimate distribution of prescription painkillers on the East Coast. Prescription drug abuse is our nation’s fastest-growing drug epidemic, and it is especially egregious when, as alleged in this Indictment, health care professionals perpetuate this danger to society.”
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Carl J. Kotowski said: “Today, DEA and its law enforcement partners delivered another blow to alleged rogue pharmacists who choose to sacrifice their ethics for the almighty dollar. They will now have to deal with the consequences of their alleged decisions.”
According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
From at least November 2011 up to and including October 2013, Paul Wiseberg, Lana Wiseberg, and Kalaba, none of whom is a medical professional, purchased and operated pharmacies in New York and New Jersey (the “Pharmacies”), through which they ordered bulk quantities of highly addictive painkillers such as oxycodone, hydromorphone, and morphine sulfate. Paul Wiseberg and Kalaba then sold and distributed those pain killers via a mail order program at significantly marked-up prices to individuals, mostly in Florida, who had no legitimate medical need for the painkillers.
On average, the Pharmacies would charge from approximately $6 to $9 per pill of oxycodone. A 28-day prescription for oxycodone, which could contain approximately 158 pills, could cost a patient between $948 and $1,400. The same prescription at a retail pharmacy would typically cost less than $200.
Paul Wiseberg, Lana Wiseberg, and Kalaba are not registered with the DEA, and as such, could not themselves obtain oxycodone and other controlled substances from distributors. They relied on Antonio and Podell to obtain hundreds of thousands of oxycodone pills and other controlled substances from distributors. Podell, a licensed pharmacist, signed the necessary forms, and Antonio interacted with the distributors to arrange for the shipments of bulk quantities of painkillers to the Pharmacies.
Gerald Wiseberg and Tomasini recruited pain clinics in Florida that had patients who were willing to pay substantially marked-up prices for the painkillers, and that would thereafter have the prescriptions sent directly to the Pharmacies. At one of the Florida pain clinics, patients were told to mail the prescriptions enclosing money orders and that no insurance or checks would be accepted. They were further instructed not to call or visit the Pharmacies.
Podell, Hirsh, and Zaslow, all licensed pharmacists, filled prescriptions for hundreds of thousands of highly addictive painkillers, knowing that the prescriptions were not issued for a legitimate medical purpose. The drugs were then mailed to the customers in Florida. In several instances, prescription drugs were mailed to addresses different from those set forth in the prescriptions. In addition, prescriptions for multiple people were also sometimes sent to the same address.
The Indictment also alleges that Paul Wiseberg, Kalaba, Gerald Wiseberg, Tomasini, and Antonio conspired to launder the proceeds of the narcotics conspiracy by both concealing the nature and source of the proceeds, and promoting the distribution of the narcotics.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the DEA New Jersey Division’s Tactical Diversion Squad, which consists of DEA Agents, Diversion Investigators, and Task Force Officers from the Elizabeth Police Department, Essex County Sheriff’s Office, Toms River Police Department, Clinton Township Police Department, Marlboro Township Police Department, and West Orange Police Department, and the DEA New Jersey Division Diversion Group I. Mr. Bharara also thanked the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, participating in the investigation as a member of the El Dorado Task Force, the DEA West Palm Beach Tactical Diversion Squad, the DEA Baltimore Tactical Diversion Squad, and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, which is part of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolina A. Fornos and Daniel Tehrani are in charge of the prosecution.The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.