Pharmacist and Baltimore County Pharmacy Indicted For Illegal Oxycodone Distribution
Diversion of Prescription Drugs Termed “Leading Drug Enforcement Challenge”
Baltimore, Maryland - A federal grand jury has indicted pharmacist Ketankumar Arvind Patel, age 47, of Eldersburg, Maryland and Deepa, Inc. d/b/a The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy (the “Medicine Shoppe”) for illegally distributing oxycodone products, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. The indictment was returned on June 23, 2009 and unsealed today upon Patel’s arrest.
“The abuse of prescription medications is one our leading law enforcement challenges,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Drugs that are approved for use only with a doctor’s supervision often are diverted and sold to drug abusers who become addicted to drugs for which they have no medical need. Prescription drug abuse has become increasingly prevalent among teenagers and young adults.”
“DEA registers pharmacists to safely deliver controlled substances for legitimate medical needs. Misuse of prescription drugs is not only dangerous, but often leads to the use of harder drugs, with life-altering consequences,” said Carl J. Kotowski, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to the six count indictment and court documents, Patel owned the Medicine Shoppe located at 11813 ½ Reisterstown Road in Reisterstown, Maryland. The investigation began in March 2009 when a confidential source (CS) advised law enforcement agents from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration that the CS had been filling fraudulent prescriptions for 80 milligram (mg) pills of OxyContin for over a year from Patel at his pharmacy. The CS had obtained stolen prescription pads and forged prescriptions for OxyContin. The CS went to many pharmacies that declined to fill the prescriptions. The CS then sent addicts with fake prescriptions to the Medicine Shoppe where Patel filled the prescriptions. After several fake prescriptions were filled, the CS himself met Patel, who not only filled fraudulent prescriptions, but also showed the CS how to better forge the prescriptions. The CS used many different patient names on the prescriptions and signed the names of several different physicians.
Court documents allege that Patel initially charged the CS $750 cash per 60 tablets of 80 mg of OxyContin, but increased the price by March 2009 to $1,800 per prescription. In 2009, the CS was passing five fraudulent prescriptions per week in exchange for $7,500 in cash. The CS had purchased as many as 600 OxyContin pills per week from Patel. Additionally, the CS typically purchased 200 Percocet/oxycodone 10 mg pills per week from Patel using forged prescriptions. From March to June, 2009, the CS made several controlled purchases of OxyContin and Xanax (alprazolam) from Patel under surveillance by law enforcement.
Wholesalers’ records revealed that in 2008, the Medicine Shoppe bought 19,300 dosage units of 80 mg OxyContin pills. Under the U.S. Sentencing Guideline’s Drug Equivalency Table, the quantities purchased by the CS in 2008-2009 are the equivalent of 63.06 kilograms of cocaine and 12,612 kilograms of marijuana. Among all pharmacies in Maryland, the Medicine Shoppe ranked 18th in the purchase of 80 mg oxycodone products; and had the second largest purchases out of 133 pharmacies in Baltimore County. Patel allegedly stopped serving customers with legitimate prescriptions for oxycodone and sold nearly all his supplies to the CS. The CS paid approximately $310,170 for the oxycodone products over the course of his relationship with Patel.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of property obtained by Patel as a result of the scheme, including $310,170, his residence, the Medicine Shoppe pharmacy and franchise, a 2008 Acura and a 2006 Porsche.
Patel faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and for each of three counts for distributing oxycodone. Patel faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the two counts for distributing alprazolam. Deepa, Inc. faces a maximum fine of $5 million for the conspiracy and three counts of distributing oxycodone, and a $1 million fine for each of the two counts for distributing alprazolam. Patel’s initial appearance is expected to be scheduled for later this afternoon.
In an unrelated case involving another pharmacy, located at 5900 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore, pharmacy owner Pamela Arrey, age 48, of Glenelg, Maryland, was indicted on June 19, 2009 for allegedly claiming reimbursement from health care benefit programs for purported “refills” of prescriptions which patients had never requested and for which no prescription drugs were ever dispensed to customers. The indictment also alleges that Arrey used the identity of patients to carry out the health care fraud scheme. Arrey faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each of the 12 counts of health care fraud and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence for aggravated identity theft.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
The DEA has a toll-free international hotline to report the illegal sale and abuse of prescription drugs: 1-877-RxAbuse (1-877-792-2873). Illegal sales of drugs on the Internet or in e-mails can be reported to the following agencies: Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Diversion Control Program, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, the Baltimore City Police Department, the Baltimore County Police Department, the Howard County Police Department and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Robert R. Harding and Mushtaq Gunja, who are prosecuting the case.