A New Jersey pharmacist has been convicted in federal court of distributing and illegally dispensing oxycodone from two pharmacies that he owned.
Michael Ludwikowski, 45, Owner of Olde Medford Pharmacy and Medford Family Pharmacy in Camden, was convicted of both illegal dispensing and maintaining a drug-involved premise after a five-week trial in federal court, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. The jury came to a verdict after three days of deliberation.
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.
“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick. “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.”
Ludwikowski’s conviction follows the guilty plea of codefendant David M. Goldfield—a pharmacist Ludwikowski hired to work at Olde Medford Pharmacy—who admitted to engaging in a conspiracy to dispense controlled substances with Ludwikowski.
Dontees Jones, Matthew Lawson, and Patrick Clark—all long-term customers of Ludwikowski—and Krystal Wood, a former employee of Olde Medford Pharmacy, also pleaded guilty in the painkiller scheme.
Here’s how the scheme worked: Ludwikowski and his pharmacies ordered and received large quantities of 30-mg oxycodone pills, “even though he knew the painkiller was not going to be used for legitimate medical reasons,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement said.
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 oxycodone.
Ludwikowski and Goldfield also ignored concerns raised by an employee who pointed out an obviously altered prescription, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Customers who used the fraudulent prescriptions—sometimes filling scripts for oxycodone several times a week — generally paid in cash and provided gifts to Ludwikowski and Goldfield.
In addition, Ludwikowski and another pharmacist he employed reached an agreement with a physician to direct the physician’s patients to Ludwikowski’s pharmacies.