Two Burlington County, New Jersey, Pharmacists Charged With Illegally Distributing Oxycodone, Other Pain Killers From Medford, New Jersey, ‘Pill Mills’
CAMDEN, N.J. – Two pharmacists were arrested today and charged in a long-running conspiracy to illegally distribute and dispense large quantities of oxycodone and other controlled substances from two pharmacies located in Medford, New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Michael Ludwikowski, 44, of Medford, and David Goldfield, 58, of Medford Lakes, New Jersey, were charged in a 16-count indictment with conspiracy to illegally distribute and dispense oxycodone and other Schedule II controlled substances, maintaining a drug-involved premises, and multiple substantive counts of illegal distribution. Ludwikowski was also charged with using his cellphone in furtherance of the conspiracy. Both defendants are scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider in Camden federal court.
“There is a real opioid epidemic in the United States, one that’s responsible for personal tragedy, widespread suffering, and enormous financial loss,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “Doctors, pharmacists, and other health care professionals have a unique opportunity to address this epidemic by ensuring prescription opiates are dispensed only for legitimate medical purposes. Instead, Ludwikowski and Goldfield allegedly chose to exacerbate the problem by selling opiates to customers with fake prescriptions or to individuals whom they knew to be addicts.”
“Opioid and prescription drug abuse is sweeping the country. By allegedly participating in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone within our community, the defendants engaged in a behavior that ultimately contributes to this epidemic,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher. “Today's arrests are not only a victory for the FBI and our partners, but for everyone who confronts the tragic outcomes of opioid addiction and abuse.”
Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s New Jersey Division said, “Unfortunately, this is another alleged case of two pharmacists violating the public trust. They should have been doing their part to help in the reduction of the opioid epidemic we are facing. Instead, based on the charges, they have played a part in adding to the epidemic.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From March 2008 through August 2013, Ludwikowski, the owner of both Olde Medford Pharmacy and Medford Family Pharmacy, and his employee, Goldfield, knowingly distributed and dispensed oxycodone and other controlled substances to individuals, including addicts, who presented phony prescriptions.
Ludwikowski ordered tens of thousands of dosage units of oxycodone, among other products, from a large national distributor. The distributer established thresholds for the quantity of controlled substances that it supplied to certain pharmacies. These thresholds could not be exceeded unless a pharmacy provided sufficient justification for an increase. As part of the conspiracy, Ludwikowski fraudulently requested and received increases to the thresholds of oxycodone supplied to his pharmacies, even though he knew they were not going to be used for legitimate medical reasons.
In some instances, the customers presented fraudulent prescriptions that had been blatantly “washed,” or “bleached,” through a chemical process that removed the original writing for a non-narcotic substance. The customers then rewrote the prescriptions for their drug of choice, including oxycodone. Ludwikowski and Goldfield even allegedly 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.”
Following that exchange, Ludwikowski received a voicemail from an individual referred to in the indictment as “Individual 3” who claimed to be a patient of Doctor 1 and was looking for a monthly supplier. After Ludwikowski passed along his number to Pharmacists 3, Individual 3 was able to fill prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances at Olde Medford Pharmacy or Medford Family Pharmacy.
In another instance, a Pennsylvania resident referred to in the indictment as “Individual 4” informed Ludwikowski that he was “in a bit of a pickle” because he had been unable to fill a prescription written by Doctor 1 in Pennsylvania, but had heard that Ludwikowski would be able to help. Subsequently, Individual 4 was able to acquire oxycodone and other controlled substance prescriptions from Ludwikowski’s pharmacies.
The conspiracy charge and each substantive count of illegal distribution of oxycodone and other Schedule II controlled substances carry 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 using a telephone in furtherance of the drug trafficking crimes carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The counts of maintaining a drug-involved premises each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
U.S. Attorney Fishman 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 the charges.
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.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.