A Horsham physician is at the center of a nearly two-year drug trafficking ring in which conspirators are said to have unlawfully acquired and distributed more than 200,000 pills containing oxycodone.
Dr. Norman Werther, of Horsham, is one of 53 suspects charged Wednesday in a 498-count indictment, according to a press release issued by the FBI of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Werther is accused of being in cahoots with a Northeast Philadelphia pharmacist to provide exams to fake patients, and in doing so, write phony prescriptions to obtain oxycodone-based drugs without there being a medical need.
In addition to drug possession and drug distribution charges, the indictment contains 240 counts of health care fraud. Agents from multiple federal and local agencies arrested defendants Wednesday morning.
Besides Werther, pharmacist Ihsanullah “Sean” Maaf, of Northeast Pharmacy in Philadelphia and alleged drug trafficker William Stukes, of Philadelphia were charged.
According to the indictment, Stukes and his alleged drug trafficking organization recruited large numbers of pseudo patients and transported them to Werther’s medical office for fake examinations. Patients paid an office visit fee, usually $150, to office staff and Werther allegedly wrote prescriptions for patients to obtain oxycodone-based drugs.
The FBI said fake patients were then driven to various pharmacies to have their prescriptions filled, including Northeast Pharmacy where Maaf was said to have filled prescriptions. Authorities said drugs were then turned over to Stukes or his drivers. Stukes and his organization would allegedly sell the narcotics to numerous drug dealers, also named in the indictment, who would resell the drugs on the street.
It is estimated that between September 2009 and July 2011, the Stukes drug trafficking ring earned more than $5 million through these illegal prescriptions. Authorities said the suspects unlawfully acquired and distributed more than 200,000 pills containing oxycodone.
“Doctors and pharmacists are trained to help real patients suffering from actual medical conditions, not drug trafficking organizations,” said United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. “Ignoring the clear health risks that oxycodone presents when introduced into the human body, Dr. Werther and pharmacist Maaf elected to use their medical training to engage in fraud by feeding the habits of drug abusers seeking a quick fix. Werther and Maaf are just like the street corner drug dealers they supplied, despite their professional status.”
According to the indictment, Maaf filled Werther’s illegally obtained prescriptions for the drug trafficking organization and laundered the money he received for his services by structuring his cash bank deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements. Maaf is charged with 119 counts of money laundering, 119 counts of structuring of financial transactions, and one count of aggravated structuring of financial transactions. A forfeiture notice seeks at least $920,574 in United States currency, representing the amount of property involved in the money laundering conspiracy.
Defendants Rita Myles, Rashida Lyles, and Tina Weisz worked in Werther’s office and allegedly helped facilitate and verify the prescriptions. Defendants Gerald Brinkley and Darrah Robinson allegedly aided Stukes in running the drug organization; drivers for the Stukes organization include defendants Herbert Hughes, Carlos Richards, Warren Johnson, Gregory Johnson, Claude Nolan, and Darrell Hendricks; charged as bulk pill buyers are Timothy Peden, Troy Fletcher, Christopher Pizzo, Ato Strong, Sylvester Adams, Jason Romm, James Lyles, and Michael Sanders.
Charged in the indictment as pseudo patients are: Zaniah Beard, Donald Brown, Kim Carter, Andre Dawkins, Evette Gringrow, Leon Harris, Denise Hawkins, Ronnie Jackson, Carla Jenkins, Beatrice Lewis, Michael Littlejohn, Vernell McDaniels, Eric Perry, Mark Reid, Michael Rominiecki, Wayne Rucker, Patricia Simmons, Lawrence Stith, Debra Stukes, Viola Stukes, Steven Thompson, Eric Treadwell, Julia Turner, Geraldine Watkins, Yolanda Williams, Lamont Butcher, Khaliff Headen, Sophia Holder, Latoisha Jones, Dawn Little, and Derek Stukes. The 31 pseudo patients are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and numerous counts of health care fraud.
The crimes of conspiracy, distribution of controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute, and money laundering each carry a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison; health care fraud and aggravated structuring each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; structuring financial transactions carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison. Each defendant also faces possible fines, periods of supervised release, and special assessments.