Boston - A Dorchester pharmacist was sentenced today in federal court for conspiring to dispense prescription drugs as part of two Internet pharmacy operations, and laundering the money obtained from the illegal businesses
Baldwin Ihenacho, 58, of Stoughton, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns to five years in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. On Aug. 18, 2011, Ihenacho pleaded guilty 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 while held for sale in interstate commerce; international money laundering; and aiding and abetting.
From Sept. 2006 and continuing to, on or about Nov. 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.
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, would surf the for an Internet website 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.
Ihenacho and his employees at Meetinghouse received these “approved” orders by computer, dispensing the drugs into vials with an insert provided by the website operator. The pharmacy then mailed the drugs to the customer using pre-designed order forms supplied by the operator of the 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. Ihenacho knew that the doctors did not have a valid doctor/patient relationship with the Internet 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 in spite of the warnings.
During the course of the charged conspiracies, Ihenacho dispensed over one million pills, all without the required valid prescriptions, and received approximately $3 million 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.
In Jan. 2012, Ihenacho’s wife, Gladys Ihenacho, was convicted after a jury trial of related drug and money laundering charges in connection with the Internet pharmacy operation. She is scheduled for sentencing on May 9, 2012.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Kevin L. Lane, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Boston Field Division; Mark Dragonetti, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 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 Division in Boston; and Robert Bethel, Inspector in Charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service made the announcement today. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Elizabeth Carmody, Shelbey D. Wright and Michelle L. Dineen Jerrett of Ortiz’s Health Care Fraud Unit.