DOJ Adds Employee Defendants in Illegal Opioid Distribution and Health Care Fraud Lawsuit Against Northeast Philadelphia Pharmacy
Fox Chase-area Pharmacy was the Top Retail Purchaser of Oxycodone in Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA (STL.News) United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that the United States filed an amended civil complaint against pharmacist Todd Goodman and pharmacy employees Eric Pestrack and Lee Kamp for their alleged involvement in years-long practices of illegally dispensing opioids and other controlled substances, and systematic health care fraud, at Philadelphia-based pharmacy Spivack, Inc., which previously operated under the name Verree Pharmacy. These individuals were added as defendants in the previously filed lawsuit against Verree and its former owner, pharmacist Mitchell Spivack, for the same alleged schemes. The amended complaint continues to seek civil penalties and civil damages, which could total in the millions of dollars, as well as injunctive relief.
The lawsuit, in which Goodman, Pestrack, and Kamp were added, was the culmination of a multi-year federal-state investigation. The amended complaint alleges that Verree Pharmacy, Spivack, Goodman, Pestrack, and Kamp had a responsibility to dispense opioids and other controlled substances only when appropriate. Instead, the United States alleges that Verree and these individuals dispensed the drugs, even when faced with numerous red flags suggestive of diversion—such as opioids in extreme doses, dangerous combinations of opioids and other “cocktail” drugs preferred by those struggling with addiction, excessive cash payments for the drugs, blatantly forged prescriptions, and other signs that the pills were being diverted for illegal purposes.
The amended complaint alleges that Verree—which was the top retail pharmacy purchasing oxycodone in Pennsylvania—has been a nationwide and regional outlier in its deviant purchasing, dispensing, and billing of controlled substances. To avoid scrutiny from the drug distributors that sold them the pills, Verree through Spivack allegedly made false statements to maintain the façade of legitimacy and keep the pharmacy stocked with pills critical to its profits. Behind that façade, the amended complaint alleges that Spivack drew millions of dollars from the pharmacy while the public suffered the consequences, including one patient who overdosed and died next to Verree Pharmacy bottles dispensed by Spivack.
The United States’ amended complaint also alleges that Verree, Spivack, Goodman, Pestrack, and Kamp were engaging in an expansive health care fraud scheme involving fraudulent billings for drugs not actually dispensed. The alleged cornerstone of the scheme was a code used by the pharmacy employees in their internal computer system: “BBDF” or “Bill But Don’t Fill.” Verree, Spivack, Goodman, Pestrack, and Kamp allegedly used BBDF as a means to cover their losses on other drugs and further the pharmacy’s illicit profits by falsely claiming to insurers, including Medicare, that they had dispensed a drug to a patient, when in fact they had not. According to the amended complaint, this sophisticated fraud—which one of the employees admitted to investigators—resulted in significant losses to Medicare and other federal programs.
The lawsuit seeks to impose civil penalties and damages on Verree, Spivack, Goodman, Pestrack, and Kamp under the Controlled Substances and False Claims Acts. If Verree, Spivack, Goodman, Pestrack, and Kamp are found liable, they could face civil penalties up to $68,426 for each unlawful prescription dispensed, civil penalties up to $23,607 for each false claim they submitted to federal health care programs, and treble damages for the alleged health care fraud against federal programs. The court may also award injunctive relief to prevent the defendants from committing additional controlled substance violations.
If the public has any information regarding Verree Pharmacy or any other health care fraud allegation, individuals should contact the HHS-OIG hotline at 800-HHS-TIPS.
The case is being investigated by the Philadelphia Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation, HHS-OIG, and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, with additional assistance from the Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General, the Defense Health Agency, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. The civil investigation and litigation are being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony D. Scicchitano and auditors Dawn Wiggins and George Niedzwicki.
The amended complaint contains allegations only that the United States must prove if the case proceeds to trial.
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