Robeson County Man Sentenced to 10 Years for Distributing Thousands of Illegal Prescription Pills while Possessing a Gun
RALEIGH, N.C. – A federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina entered a consent judgment and injunction requiring a North Carolina pharmacy, Seashore Drugs, Inc., its owner John D. Waggett, and its pharmacist-in-charge Billy W. King II, to pay $1,050,000.00 in civil penalties and to cease dispensing opioids or other controlled substances, the Department of Justice announced.
The consent order resolves a complaint filed by the United States alleging that Seashore Drugs, Waggett, and King repeatedly filled prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The United States alleged that, for years, defendants ignored well-known “red flags” of drug diversion and drug-seeking behavior when filling prescriptions for controlled substances. These prescriptions often involved well-known, highly addictive, and highly abused painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, along with other “potentiator” drugs—drugs that heighten the euphoric effects of opioids, like carisoprodol (i.e., Soma) and alprazolam (i.e., Xanax).
“The Department of Justice continues to use all tools at its disposal to combat the opioid crisis,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Reports indicate that COVID-19 has exacerbated many of the opioid crisis’s underlying causes. As a result, the Civil Division, DEA, and other law enforcement partners have redoubled efforts to ensure that pharmacies that fail to uphold their obligation to dispense controlled substances lawfully will be held accountable.”
“Opioid addiction and abuse have devastated communities across our nation, and eastern North Carolina is no exception,” said Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “As the last line of defense between these dangerously addictive substances and our communities, pharmacists and pharmacies play a critical role in stemming the tide of the opioid epidemic. Seashore, Waggett, and King ignored that responsibility and, instead, made matters worse. Today’s order demonstrates our office’s continued, unwavering commitment to hold responsible all who had a role to play in this crisis — from distributors, to prescribers, to the pharmacies who ultimately put the pills in patients’ hands.”
“These pharmacists abandoned their code of ethics,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA. “If diversion of controlled substances is suspected, pharmacists must investigate and resolve any red flags before filling a prescription. These steps are necessary to comply with the law and to protect patient health. We will not hesitate to use all federal resources necessary to ensure that members of the health care industry follow the law.”
As alleged in the complaint, which included several patient examples, many prescriptions raised multiple red flags, but Seashore Drugs, Waggett, and King failed to take the required steps to resolve those red flags and ensure the prescriptions’ legitimacy before filling them. The red flags allegedly ignored by Seashore Drugs, Waggett, and King were numerous and included, among others:
The investigation and prosecution of this case were a joint effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Consumer Protection Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Drug, Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys C. Michael Anderson and John E. Harris of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney James W. Harlow of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch represented the United States. Additional investigatory assistance was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.