DORCHESTER PHARMACIST CONVICTED OF ILLEGAL DISPENSING OF DRUGS VIA THE INTERNET
BOSTON, Mass...Owner of Dorchester pharmacy convicted in federal court of conspiring to dispense prescription drugs as part of two Internet pharmacy operations, and laundering the money obtained from the illegal businesses.
BALDWIN IHENACHO, 57, of Stoughton, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns to Conspiracy to Distribute and Dispense Schedule III and IV Controlled Substances; Dispensing of Controlled Substances; Conspiracy to Misbrand Drugs While Held for Sale in Interstate Commerce; Misbranding Drugs While Held for Sale in Interstate Commerce; International Money Laundering; and Aiding and Abetting.
At today’s plea hearing, the prosecutor told the Court that had the case proceeded to trial the Government’s evidence would have proven that from September 2006, and continuing to on or about November 2008, IHENACHO, a registered pharmacist and owner of Meetinghouse Community Pharmacy in Dorchester, conspired and agreed with others to knowingly and intentionally distribute, dispense, and to possess with intent to distribute and dispense, schedule III and IV controlled substances, as well as non-controlled substances, without valid prescriptions, that is, prescriptions that were issued outside of the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. The controlled substances included, but were not limited to medications for anxiety, weight loss, sleep disorders, epilepsy and pain.
The evidence would also have shown that Meetinghouse Community Pharmacy was the primary fulfillment pharmacy for two Internet pharmacy operations, Global Access and Golden Island, both of which were located in the Dominican Republic. Consumers who wished to obtain certain drugs, but who did not have a prescription from a physician to obtain those medications from a local pharmacy, would surf the Internet looking for sites that offered to sell the desired medications. The customers were not asked to supply medical records and may or may not have been asked to answer a brief medical questionnaire. The “call center” or operators of the website approved the orders and asked the patient to pay for the drugs requested using a major credit card, as the website did not accept health insurance. The website operators would then send a request to someone, in some instances a doctor (who had never seen or met the patient) and in some instances a lay person, to “authorize” the order.
The evidence would have proven that IHENACHO, and his employees at Meetinghouse, received these “approved” orders by computer, dispensing the drugs into vials with an insert provided by the Internet website operator. The pharmacy then mailed the drugs to the customer using pre-designed order forms supplied by the operator of the Internet website by a private express mail service. In most instances, the customer was located in a state different from either the pharmacy or the doctor. The doctors and Meetinghouse were paid by the internet pharmacy operator for writing and/or authorizing the drug orders and filling them, respectively. The evidence would have shown that IHENACHO knew that the doctors did not have a valid doctor/patient relationship with the Internet website customers, as required by law. Additionally, IHENACHO received specific warnings from the DEA and various state agencies that his dispensing conduct was unlawful, yet continued his unlawful conduct despite the warnings. During the course of the charged conspiracies, IHENACHO dispensed, or caused to be dispensed, over one million pills, all without the required valid prescriptions. For his dispensing services, IHENACHO received approximately three million dollars in payment from the two internet pharmacy operations. These funds were transferred to IHENACHO’s accounts in the United States from accounts located in the Dominican Republic, which constituted international money laundering.
Judge Stearns scheduled sentencing for November 15, 2011. IHENACHO faces up to 10 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine on the drug charges and up to 20 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine on the international money laundering charges. The charges also carry criminal forfeiture.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Steven Derr, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Boston Field Office; Mark Dragonetti, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office; William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; and Robert Bethel, Inspector in Charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service made the announcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Elizabeth Carmody, Shelbey D. Wright and Michelle L. Dineen Jerrett of Ortiz’s Health Care Fraud Unit.