Shutting Down a Fraudulent Prescription Drug Mill

February 28, 2018 | Topic: Opioids

Attorney General Josh Shapiro Announces Charges against 10 People for Passing 107 Fake Prescriptions in Berks, Bucks, Lancaster and Philadelphia

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced charges against 10 people  who used home computers, prescription paper obtained from supply stores, and information stolen from doctors to write more than 100 fake prescriptions and obtain more than 12,600 Oxycodones and other opioids for re-sale on the streets of southeastern Pennsylvania.

The fraudulent prescription drug mill was run by David Francis Lawson, 46, of Fairdale Road, Philadelphia, who created fake prescriptions on his home computer using prescription paper obtained from office supply stores. Lawson is charged with 26 felony counts of acquisition of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge and other charges.

“We’re committed to prosecuting drug dealers, whether they’re operating on street corners, in doctors’ offices – or from behind their home computer screens,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Prescription drugs are fueling this crisis and my office is focused on stopping illegal diversion of these powerful opioid medications.”

Studies show that 80 percent of heroin users began their drug abuse by using prescription drugs. In 2017, Office of Attorney General agents charged 216 persons for illegally diverting prescription drugs — a 72 percent increase over the previous year.

The case began in November 2016 when a Reading area pharmacist suspected a fraudulent prescription and contacted police. The pharmacist told police that he noticed a surge of Oxycodone prescriptions in the doctor’s name over a relatively short period of time.

Attorney General Shapiro praised the pharmacist who assisted the investigation. “Because of this pharmacist’s vigilance, our agents and other police were able to identify and dismantle this prescription drug ring,” Shapiro said. “We’re asking pharmacists and medical professionals across our Commonwealth: If you see something wrong, tell us. We’ll act on your information.”

In collaboration with East Lampeter Township Police, Reading Police, West Reading Police, and the District Attorneys of Berks County, Bucks County and Lancaster County, Attorney General’s agents learned that Lawson and his accomplices used the names of several actual Pennsylvania doctors and their assigned DEA numbers to falsify prescriptions. The doctors are not part of the criminal case or the pill ring.

The fake prescriptions included a phone number of a co-conspirator, who would “verify” the prescription if a pharmacist called to check the legitimacy of the fake prescriptions.

Lawson provided fraudulent prescriptions to his accomplices in exchange for a payment of $250 and a portion of their prescription — usually 30 Oxycodone pills. Lawson then would sell the prescription pills he obtained to an unknown individual. Lawson was arrested in October, followed by other co-conspirators in the following months.

“This investigation is a great example of law enforcement agencies working together to make a dent in the opioid problem that plagues our state,” said Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams.

In addition to Lawson, nine others were charged today with various felony drug offenses:

  • Robert Belik, 44, of Reading
  • Joseph Durfor, 47, currently incarcerated, Bucks County Detention Center
  • Jeffrey Gavella, 37, of Philadelphia
  • Dennis Hickey, 38, of Ridley Park
  • Gabrielle Jaslow, 39, currently incarcerated, Berks County Detention Center
  • Richard Loewen, 26, of Philadelphia
  • Michael Malone, 42, address unknown
  • David Shlamowitz, 31, currently incarcerated, Berks County Detention Center
  • Amy Ungar, 34, of Philadelphia

“Thanks to strong law enforcement collaboration, this fraudulent prescription drug mill was shut down,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “I want to thank Berks District Attorney Adams, Bucks DA Matthew Weintraub, Lancaster DA Craig Stedman, and the police departments in Lancaster, Reading and West Reading for all their collaboration on this case.”

The defendants will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Christie Bonesch.

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