Burlington County, New Jersey, Pharmacist Convicted of Illegally Distributing Opioids from ‘Pill Mills’
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Medford, New Jersey, pharmacist was convicted today for his role in illegally distributing and dispensing oxycodone from two pharmacies located in Medford, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Michael Ludwikowski, 45, the owner of Olde Medford Pharmacy and Medford Family Pharmacy, was convicted of six counts in an indictment charging him with illegally distributing and dispensing oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and maintaining a drug-involved premises. He was convicted following a five-week trial before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court. The jury deliberated for three days before returning the guilty verdict.
The trial follows the guilty plea of co-defendant David M. Goldfield, also a pharmacist (who Ludwikowski had hired to work at Olde Medford Pharmacy), to engaging in a conspiracy to dispense controlled substances with Ludwikowski, and the pleas of Dontees Jones, Matthew Lawson, and Patrick Clark, all long-term customers of Ludwikowski, and Krystal Wood, a former employee of Olde Medford Pharmacy.
“For the people of New Jersey and across the United States, the suffering, loss of life, and enormous financial losses attributed to the opioid epidemic are all too real,” Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick said. “In the midst of this crisis, Ludwikowski – a pharmacist who had a duty to ensure that prescription opiates were dispensed only for legitimate medical purposes – knowingly sold them to customers with fake prescriptions or to individuals whom he knew to be addicts. He didn’t just fail in his professional responsibilities: he actively contributed to the opioid crisis, and as the jury decided today, broke federal laws in the process.”
“Opioid and prescription drug abuse have been spreading throughout our country. We are determined to investigate and prosecute those who unlawfully distribute oxycodone within our community,” Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the FBI’s Newark office said. “Today’s conviction highlights the commitment of the FBI and our partners to combat the growth of this epidemic that continues to impact our society.”
Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division said, “The current opioid epidemic is widespread and is tearing families apart. A pharmacist has a responsibility to play a role in curtailing this problem. In this case, the defendant chose to ignore that responsibility and instead was more interested in profiting on people’s addictions.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From March 2008 through August 2013, Ludwikowski, the pharmacist-in-charge of Olde Medford Pharmacy, and his employee, Goldfield, knowingly distributed and dispensed oxycodone and other controlled substances to individuals, including addicts, who presented phony prescriptions.
Ludwikowski ordered large quantities of oxycodone from a national distributor. The distributor established thresholds for the quantity of controlled substances that it supplied to certain pharmacies. Ludwikowski and his pharmacies received large quantities of 30mg oxycodone pills, even though he knew the painkiller was not going to be used for legitimate medical reasons.
In some instances, the customers presented fraudulent prescriptions for a non-narcotic substance that had been “washed,” or “bleached,” through a chemical process that removed the original writing. The customers then rewrote the prescriptions for their drug of choice, oxycodone. Ludwikowski and Goldfield also ignored concerns raised by an employee who pointed out an obviously altered prescription.
Customers who used the fraudulent prescriptions generally paid in cash and provided gifts to Ludwikowski and Goldfield. In some instances, these customers filled fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone multiple times a week.
In furtherance of the scheme, Ludwikowski and another pharmacist he employed – referred to in the indictment as “Pharmacist 3” – reached an agreement with a physician –referred to in the indictment as “Doctor 1” – to “steer” Doctor 1’s patients to Ludwikowski’s pharmacies. In a text message from Pharmacist 3 to Ludwikowski on Jan. 11, 2013, Pharmacist 3 wrote: “I talked to [Doctor 1] and he is going to direct all of his patients to us he is the pain doc in Cherry Hill.”
Each of the five substantive counts of illegal distribution of oxycodone carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The count of maintaining a drug-involved premises carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gallagher; the DEA New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Kotowski; the Medford Police Department under the direction of Chief Richard J. Meder; the Moorestown Police Department under the direction of Chief Lee R. Lieber; the Florence Police Department under the direction of Chief John Bunce; and the Lumberton Police Department under the direction of Chief Tony Diloreto, with the investigation leading to today’s conviction.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin C. Danilewitz and Senior Litigation Counsel Jason M. Richardson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Devlin of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.