Pharmacists Ordered To Pay $5 Million For Illegally Dispensing Pills
A federal judge has ordered the former owners of a south Atlanta pharmacy to pay $5 million in restitution that will go toward providing methadone treatment for some 1,200 of their customers.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones approved the community restitution order Friday in the case of former pharmacists Rosemary E. Ofume and her husband, Donatus Iriele. They owned the Medicine Center pharmacy on Jonesboro Road. Both are already serving time in federal prison.
Byung J. “BJay” Pak., the U.S. Attorney for Georgia’s Northern District, said his office has identified the $5 million dollars and is in the process of recovering it.
“They pay to defray the cost of treating the people they have allowed to be addicted to painkillers. It’s to hold them responsible for the damage that they’re causing,” Pak said.
The money will go directly to state agencies who provide victim assistance and substance abuse treatment services. Prosecutors say the restitution order is the first of its kind in the country against pharmacists.
“These pharmacists fed opiate addictions among so many as a means to sustain their lifestyles,” Pak said. “Now, they will begin to serve lengthy prison sentences and pay back the state of Georgia to account for some of the harm they caused to the community.”
The federal investigation into the pharmacy began in 2009. Pak said, in just that year, the pharmacy distributed more than 347,000 doses of painkillers.
Ofume and Iriele took in more than $5.1 million from unlawful prescriptions, accounting for more than 90 percent of the pharmacy’s revenue. They also laundered the money by buying vehicles in the U.S. for people in Nigeria without disclosing that those people were depositing equivalent amounts into Iriele’s personal bank account in the African nation.
The Georgia Board of Pharmacy had revoked Iriele’s pharmacy license and temporarily suspended Ofume’s license in 2007 after they failed to account for more than 600,000 controlled substance pills at their pharmacies and had dispensed controlled substances for more than 1,400 forged prescriptions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.