Online Drug Sales Scheme Allegedly Tied to Warren Pharmacist
Peter Riccio part of interstate operation selling medications without prescriptions, U.S. Attorney says.
A Warren resident has been charged in connection to an online drug sales scheme federal prosecutors say sold medications without prescriptions.
Peter Riccio, 59, has been charged with narcotics conspiracy, narcotics distribution, conspiracy to misbrand, misbranding, mail and wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
The charges were announced Thursday in a joint statement by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Robert G. Koval, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, following a raid on a pharmacy in Hellertown, Pa., one of three owned by Riccio. He also owns the Towne Pharmacy on South Washington Road, in Dunellen.
According to the statement, Riccio and pharmacist Lena Lasher worked with physicians John Burling, Robert Imbernino and Edmund Kaplan, along with website operators Timothy Kear, Christopher Riley, Adam Risolia, Gergana Chervenkova and Paul Gryszkiewicz in operating a "multi-million dollar Internet pharmacy fraud scheme," selling such medications as Fioricet, Soma and Ultram since 2010.
“As alleged, this multi-million dollar Internet pharmacy pill scheme involved pharmacists and doctors who placed cash over care by partnering with corrupt website operators to peddle massive quantities of addictive pain pills without valid prescriptions," Bharara said. "We will not tolerate the violation of laws and regulations governing the pharmaceutical industry, and today’s arrests underscore our ongoing commitment to pursuing those who illegally put profit over public health and safety.”
Bharara said customers were able to purchase the medications after placing orders by completing simple questionaires, for which Drs. Burling, Imbernino and Kaplan allegedly then wrote prescriptions for, and which were filled by Riccio's pharmacies (Lasher is the pharmacist-in-charge of Ricco's Pennsylvania pharmacy).
According to the indictment, bank accounts controlled by Riccio and/or Lasher received more than $13,000,000 from the website operators. All of the indicted participants in the scheme have had assets seized and accounts frozen, according to Bharara.
Riccio was scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court Thursday. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
The investigation included the DEA’s New Jersey Division, as well as the IRS Criminal Investigation agents who are part of Homeland Security Investigation’s El Dorado Task Force, the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and INTERPOL.