Owner of Northeast Philadelphia Pharmacy Charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Oxycodone and Fraud
The Fox Chase-area Pharmacy is also the subject of a federal civil lawsuit filed earlier this year
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Mitchell Spivack, 62, of Collegeville, PA, was charged by Information with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and healthcare fraud. These charges are the result of a joint investigation between the United States Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
As alleged in the Information, Spivack owned Verree Pharmacy located in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia and was the pharmacist in charge. Verree operated as a small neighborhood pharmacy for more than thirty years. During that time in business, Spivack and his coconspirators allegedly cultivated Verree’s reputation as an “easy fill” and “no questions asked” pharmacy for oxycodone and other dangerous and addictive opioid drugs. By 2016, Verree was the largest purchaser of oxycodone among retail pharmacies in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Spivack and his coconspirators filled prescriptions for wholesale quantities of high-dose oxycodone despite obvious alterations to the prescriptions and other red flags indicating that the drugs were not for a legitimate medical purpose. In addition, Spivack and other employees of Veree submitted entirely fraudulent claims to health care benefit programs for prescription drugs not dispensed. These drugs were designated in patient profiles as “BBDF” which was an acronym for “Bill But Don’t Fill.” From 2013 through 2019, Medicare and other insurers paid over $450,000 for these bogus claims.
“Pharmacies and pharmacists engage in the deepest violation of the community’s trust when they exploit their access to opioids and other controlled substances and illegally dispense the drugs for their own financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “It is even more disturbing when pharmacists take advantage of their position of trust by fraudulently billing Medicare and other federal health care programs for bogus prescription drugs. Our Office will use every resource it has to pursue and hold these individuals accountable. I am grateful for the support and investigative teamwork that the DEA, HHS-OIG, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office provided in this important matter.”
“We know that nearly 80% of those who use heroin first started with misusing a prescription opioid,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “The defendant is charged with filling prescriptions outside of medical standards for the highly addictive drug oxycodone. Diversion of these drugs perpetuates the existing opioid crisis that killed 5,438 Pennsylvanians last year. Pharmacies and medical professionals have a responsibility under the law to dispense these drugs only when appropriate. Our office is committed to continuing to work with our federal partners to hold medical professionals like Mitchell Spivack accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, a special assessment and an order of restitution.
If the public has any information regarding Verree Pharmacy or any other health care fraud allegation, individuals should contact the HHS-OIG hotline at 800-HHS-TIPS.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a civil suit against Spivack, his company, and employees alleging healthcare fraud and violations of the Controlled Substances Act. The criminal case was investigated by the Philadelphia Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, HHS-OIG, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, and the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Beth Leahy and Special Assistant United States Attorney Linda Montag, who was specially designated by the AG. The civil case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony D. Scicchitano.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.