Pharmacists Sentenced in Prescription Drug Smuggling, Pill Mill Scheme

OCTOBER 12, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor
A Pennsylvania pharmacist was recently sentenced for his role in a conspiracy to smuggle misbranded prescription drugs into the United States, the Department of Justice announced in a press release.

According to the information presented in court, Jeffrey A. Markovitz, from Clairton, Pa, who previously owned Dierken’s Pharmacy, ordered drugs from a Canadian company that sold prescription medications manufactured in other countries, such as Spain and Turkey. Markovitz then used the drugs to fill prescriptions at his pharmacy.

Markovitz was sentenced in federal court to 3 years of probation on each count to run concurrently, with 6 months in home detention, forfeiture of $650,000, a $15,000 fine, and $200 special assessment on his conviction of conspiracy to smuggle misbranded drugs and conspiracy to money launder.

In a separate case, a pharmacist from Arkansas was sentenced to prison for his role in a pill mill scheme. In addition to 10 years in federal prison, Christopher Grant Watson was ordered to pay $850,000, representing the unlawful profits from the operation, which includes $54,000 in restitution to Medicare/Medicaid.

On October 5, 2016, Watson, of Perryville, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to dispense hydrocodone without an effective prescription, health care fraud, and structuring bank account deposits to avoid bank reporting requirements. He was sentenced to 60 months on the drug conspiracy and structuring charges, and 120 months on the health care fraud.

Watson unlawfully distributed prescription opioid medications from his store, Perry County Food and Drug Store, and schemed to defraud Medicare/Medicaid by falsely billing Medicare Part D for patients’ claims. Watson sold tens of thousands of scheduled medications after hours and forged prescriptions to account for missing pills, with a pharmacy audit revealing more than 49,000 oxycodone pills missing and more than 72,000 hydrocodone pills missing.

Of the 28 original defendants in the case, 23 have pleaded guilty and charges were dismissed on 5 defendants.

Watson’s arrest is part of an aggressive campaign launched by the DEA New Orleans Field Division, called Operation Pilluted, targeting illegally diverted prescriptions medications in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

References
Pharmacist Sentenced for Conspiracy to Smuggle Misbranded Drugs into US [news release]. Pennsylvania. DOJ’s website. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/pr/pharmacist-sentenced-conspiring-smuggle-misbranded-drugs-us Accessed October 11, 2017.
Perryville Pharmacist Sent to Prison for 10 Years, to Pay $850,000 for Role in Pill Scheme [news release]. Arkansas. DOJ’s website. https://www.justice.gov/usao-edar/pr/perryville-pharmacist-sent-prison-10-years-pay-850000-role-pill-scheme. Accessed October 11, 2017.

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