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New York Nurse Sentenced for Selling Unapproved "Party Drug" Phenazepam on the Internet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 10, 2012

Acworth Teenager Died after Taking Drug Schroeder Sold on eBay

ATLANTA – Matthew Schroeder, a registered nurse, was sentenced today by United States Senior District Court Judge J. Owen Forrester for using eBay to sell a “party drug” not approved for sale in the United States.  The drug, phenazepam, is related to Valium and, while it is not listed as a controlled substance under federal drug laws, its sale for human consumption is prohibited in the United States except for research under strictly regulated terms. 

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Selling dangerous drugs is a potentially deadly business whether you do it in person, or via the Internet.  Phenazepam is a highly dangerous drug which has become a popular alternative to street drugs.  As a registered nurse and abuser of phenazepam, Schroeder was especially aware of the drug’s dangers, yet he marketed the drug over eBay with no warnings and a fraudulent banner purporting to prohibit purchases by law enforcement and for any purpose other than research.”

Matthew Schroeder, 29, formerly of North Tonawanda, New York, was sentenced to 3 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release.  Schroeder was convicted on August 2, 2012, upon his plea of guilty to dispensing a misbranded prescription drug without a prescription and with intent to defraud and mislead.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: in August 2010, an 18-year-old man from Acworth, Georgia, bought phenazepam from Schroeder’s eBay site.  On the night of August 24, 2010, the 18-year-old, his teenage friends and Kerrie Sue Chatham, 44, were partying at Chatham’s home in Acworth.  While watching movies, the 18-year-old mixed phenazepam in powder form with alcohol and then injected the mixture.  The 18-year-old was also taking oxycodone pills given to him by Chatham.  On the morning of August 25, 2010, Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call from the Chatham home.  They arrived to find the 18-year-old unconscious with a nose bloodied from an overdose.  The teen, Chatham and two others were taken to the hospital.  The 18-year-old later died, while the others were hospitalized and released.  An autopsy concluded that his death was an accident caused by phenazepam, oxycodone and propoxyphene.

Chatham was arrested on state charges for distributing oxycodone, a Schedule II drug, and sentenced to serve three years in prison.  An investigation by Special Agents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office traced the 18-year-old’s purchase of phenazepam from Matthew Schroeder through eBay, email and PayPal records, along with information provided by the 18-year-old’s parents.  This evidence led the investigators to North Tonawanda, New York, where they discovered evidence of phenazepam sales in Schroeder’s apartment and computer.  Schroeder admitted selling phenazepam to 18-year-old and others around the country.

Phenazepam is a benzodiazepine drug related to Valium but many times stronger.  Phenazepam magnifies the effects of other substances and can be fatal in small doses, especially when mixed with alcohol and other depressants.  Even snorting one line can cause an overdose.  Its delayed effect, which can take 2-3 hours, compounds its dangers by inviting the inexperienced user to re-dose.  An overdose can quickly lead to loss of bowel control, respiratory depression, coma and death.  Side effects can last for days and sometimes weeks. 

The case was investigated by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

 Assistant United States Attorney Brian Pearce prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Information Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.

 

 

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