Pharmacy Owner, Physician Charged for Prescription Internet Scheme

Charges have been brought against a pharmacy owner and physician for a multimillion-dollar Internet scheme they allegedly devised to distribute medications to individuals without valid prescriptions.

Charges have been brought against a pharmacy owner and physician for a multimillion-dollar Internet scheme they allegedly devised to distribute medications to individuals without valid prescriptions.

Through this scheme, which ran from June 2009 to at least April 2012, individuals received prescription medications through RX Limited and other websites solely by filling out online medical questionnaires, according to the indictment. Through Anaconda Pharmacy and his MEDS 2 GO Pharmacy business, Philip E. Michael II, of Alum Creek, West Virginia, filled and shipped prescription drug orders to customers in various states that require a valid prescription before dispensing medications.

After customers selected their desired medications and completed an online medical questionnaire, the website operator would send it to an issuing physician, including Eutan Laing, of Piscataway, New Jersey, who has also been charged. The drug would then be prescribed to customers without verifying their medical complaint, having an adequate patient history, performing a mental or physical exam, using appropriate diagnostic or laboratory testing, and providing a means to monitor the customer’s response to the medication. Then, the invalid prescription would be filled by MEDS 2 Go or Aracoma and shipped to customers.

Michael and Laing have been charged with 10 criminal charges: Internet pharmacy conspiracy to distribute misbranded drugs, distributing misbranded drugs, mail fraud conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, health care fraud, engaging in the unlicensed wholesale distribution of prescription drugs, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and obstruction of a criminal investigation.

Throughout the scheme, bank accounts controlled by Michael allegedly received $4 million, and Laing and other physicians were allegedly paid in excess of $800,000.

Michael is also charged with defrauding a health care benefit program and aggravated identity theft. Meanwhile, MEDS 2 GO is charged with distributing misbranded drugs because dispensing Soma, Ultram, and Fioricet without a prescription causes them to become misbranded.

Also charged are Mark Reinhard, of Cross Lanes, West Virginia, with being an unlicensed wholesale distributor of prescription drugs, and Joetta Kuhn, of Louisville, Kentucky, with obstructing a criminal investigation. Physicians John Burlington and Edward Kaplan have already pleaded guilty to charges in connection with this scheme in the Southern District of New York.

If convicted, the defendants may receive penalties ranging from 2 years to 20 years in prison for each specific count, a $250,000 fine for each count, and supervised release for 3 years. The aggravated identity charge carries a minimum penalty of 2 years.