Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges In Manhattan Federal Court Against Former Physician’s Assistant For Minor League Hockey Team And Former Player For Team Relating To The Distribution Of Oxycodone
Drugs Were Ultimately Provided To NHL Player, Derek Boogaard, Who Died In May 2011 Oxycodone And Alcohol Overdose
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, James J. Hunt, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and William J. Bratton, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment
charging JORDAN HART, a former player for a minor league hockey team (“Team-1”), and OSCAR JOHNSON, a physician’s assistant who formerly provided medical services to Team-1, with various offenses principally relating to the distribution of oxycodone. As alleged, JOHNSON wrote medically unnecessary Percocet prescriptions for HART on a monthly basis from June 2009 through July 2011, despite never once conducting any treatment or diagnosis of HART for any injuries or illnesses over that time period. From at least December 2010 through April 2011, HART sold at least some of the oxycodone he obtained from JOHNSON’s prescriptions to Derek Boogaard, who was a professional hockey player for an NHL team in New York, New York (“Team-2”), and who suffered from an addiction to prescription painkillers and Ambien. On May 13, 2011, two weeks after last purchasing oxycodone from HART in New York, Boogaard died of an overdose of oxycodone and alcohol in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
HART and JOHNSON were arrested this morning. HART will be presented in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger later this afternoon. JOHNSON will be presented in federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah, later this afternoon. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, for more than two years, Oscar Johnson casually provided Percocet prescriptions to a former minor league hockey player without once treating or examining that player during that period. The minor league player, Jordan Hart, then filled those prescriptions and sold the corresponding drugs to Derek Boogaard, an NHL player, feeding Boogaard’s growing, debilitating addiction. Ultimately, that addiction, fueled at least in part by the drugs that Johnson illegally prescribed, and Hart peddled for cash, culminated in Boogaard’s tragic overdose death. We have seen far too many tragedies from prescription drug overdoses. This Office will continue to warn people of the dangers of prescription drug abuse and investigate and prosecute those who illegally deal in pain medications wherever we find them. And finally, the sports world is not exempt from federal narcotics law and should not expect to be.”
DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said: “Like a sad story of lost potential, Derek Boogaard fell victim to prescription drug addiction ending in the most tragic consequence – a fatal overdose. His death in Minneapolis led law enforcement on a trail to Long Island and Utah that identified two people who allegedly supplied him diverted oxycodone, Jordan Hart and Oscar Johnson. Let this be another warning to the athletes across America about the fatal dangers of prescription drug abuse and a warning to those who distribute diverted prescription medication throughout our communities – law enforcement will track you down.” Acting SAC Hunt would like to extend his condolences to the Boogaard family for their loss.
NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton said: “The NYPD will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to stop the illegal drug trade in any form of distribution. Thanks to the investigators and prosecutors involved in this case, this illegal supply of prescription narcotics was shut down before it could destroy another life.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
Oxycodone is a prescription narcotic-strength opioid used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions. Oxycodone is typically dispensed in five to 30 milligram tablets to patients suffering from conditions such as post-operative pain, severe back and orthopedic injuries, as well as pain associated with certain forms of cancer treatments and terminal illnesses. Oxycodone is a highly addictive opioid which, along with other controlled substance prescription medications, is abused by almost seven million Americans, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents. Because of its extremely addictive properties, oxycodone is heavily regulated, and should be prescribed with care. Indeed, the standard of care for properly prescribing oxycodone and other opioids requires monthly to quarterly in-person evaluation of a patient, including a full discussion of the degree of pain relief the patient is obtaining, the degree of improvement from the medication, an assessment of side effects, scrutiny for aberrant behavior, physical examination, compliance monitoring, and the development and implementation of a treatment plan utilizing all possible alternatives.
JOHNSON was a physician’s assistant for a medical services group in Utah (the “Medical Group”) that provided contract medical services to Team-1, which played in the East Coast Hockey League (“ECHL”). JOHNSON worked for the Medical Group between 2007 and July 2011, and was the primary medical liaison to Team-1 during that time. As a physician’s assistant, JOHNSON, under the supervision of a physician or surgeon, was able to diagnose and treat illnesses, and prescribe medications including oxycodone.
HART played for Team-1 during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 ECHL seasons. During those two seasons, JOHNSON did not regularly prescribe oxycodone for HART. Indeed, JOHNSON wrote HART a total of four prescriptions for medications containing oxycodone during HART’s entire tenure with Team-1. However, after the 2008-2009 ECHL season ended in April 2009, and after HART had stopped playing for Team-1 and retired from the ECHL, JOHNSON began a practice of writing oxycodone prescriptions for HART approximately every month. The prescriptions began in June 2009 and continued until July 2011 – the last month JOHNSON worked for the Medical Group. In total, between June 2009 and July 2011 JOHNSON wrote HART 26 prescriptions for Percocet, which contains oxycodone, for a total of 2,920 pills.
JOHNSON did not conduct any in-person treatment or examination of HART prior to writing any of the 26 prescriptions issued between June 2009 and July 2011. Instead, JOHNSON simply signed the prescriptions and provided them to a medical assistant to mail to HART in New York, where all 26 of the prescriptions were filled. When questioned, JOHNSON told the medical assistant that HART had shoulder pain and was looking for a doctor in New York. JOHNSON continued to write prescriptions for HART without any treatment or examination for 26 months.
HART, in turn, began selling the Percocet he obtained from prescriptions written by JOHNSON beginning in at least December 2010. HART sold some or all of the painkillers to Derek Boogaard, a professional hockey player for Team-2, an NHL team in New York, New York. Boogaard, who had previously played for a professional hockey team in Minneapolis, Minnesota, had a documented history of addiction to prescription painkillers and Ambien. In December 2010, Boogaard suffered a severe concussion after an on-ice fight during a game, and never played again. Boogaard subsequently suffered severe migraines and began spending most of his time in his New York apartment with the lights off, abusing oxycodone and Ambien. At least some of the oxycodone was purchased from HART, to whom Boogaard had been introduced by a teammate. Boogaard regularly traveled to Huntington, New York, where HART lived, to purchase the pills.
In April 2011, Boogaard was sent to a rehabilitation facility in California to deal with his addiction to painkillers. Boogaard was given permission to leave the facility in late April 2011 to travel to New York and then Minneapolis. When Boogaard arrived in New York on April 29, 2011, he met with HART and wrote HART a $4,000 check to buy prescription drugs. Boogaard then traveled to Minneapolis and met his brother. While unpacking his belongings from the trip to New York, Boogaard provided a bag of prescription drugs to his brother for safekeeping, before ultimately returning to the rehabilitation facility in California.
On May 12, 2011, during another reprieve from the rehabilitation facility, Boogaard consumed one of the painkillers he had brought from New York to Minneapolis two weeks earlier. After a late night of drinking with friends at bars in downtown Minneapolis, Boogaard went to sleep during the early morning hours of May 13, 2011. He was found dead later that day. Boogaard’s cause of death was determined to be a mixed oxycodone and alcohol toxicity.
HART, 31, of Huntington, New York, is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. JOHNSON, 59, of Salt Lake City, Utah, is charged with 26 counts of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute oxycodone, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of making a false statement, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara thanked the DEA Tactical Diversion Squad New York (TDS-NY) comprising agents and officers from the DEA, the New York City Police Department, the Town of Orangetown Police Department, and the Westchester County Police Department, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration Field Offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Minneapolis Police Department for their work in the investigation, which he noted is ongoing.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Russell Capone and Jessica Lonergan are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.