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Press Release

Physician Charged with Illegally Distributing Controlled Substances for Internet Pharmacies and with Tax Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA, PA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Dr. Charles Garo Avetian, 55, of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, a physician licensed in Pennsylvania, was charged today by Information with illegally distributing controlled substances and submitting false individual income tax returns.

The Information charges that Avetian, while working for entities that sold controlled prescription drugs via the Internet, issued invalid prescriptions for Fioricet, which contains butalbital, a barbiturate and Schedule III controlled substance, based solely upon his review of online questionnaires completed by the customers of the websites that employed him.  The defendant is also charged with failing to report approximately $363,830 of gross receipts earned during the tax years 2012 through 2014 on his federal income tax returns.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 139 years’ imprisonment, a three-year period of supervised release, a $7,250,000 million fine, and a $1,600 special assessment.  

“The conduct alleged to have occurred in this case is drug dealing – plain and simple.  Although the defendant’s chosen venue was the Internet rather than a street corner, the practical effect is the same and the impact to the community is just as bad,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain.  “The consequences should similarly reflect the severity of this behavior and the alleged tax fraud.”

“There are thousands of websites that claim to be online pharmacies offering controlled substance medications without a valid prescription and from an unregulated supply chain, which pose a serious risk to public health,” said Jonathan A. Wilson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Philadelphia Field Division.  “Dr. Avetian is accused of prescribing controlled substance medications outside of the usual course of medical practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, which are violations of federal law.”

“No matter what the source of income, all income is taxable.  Each of us is responsible for filing correct and accurate tax returns,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Guy Ficco.  “We will vigorously investigate those individuals who knowingly and willfully evade their tax obligation.”

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank R. Costello, Jr.

An Indictment, Information or Criminal Complaint is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated September 24, 2018