Federal agencies say a $5 million prescription-drug trafficking operation was brought down Wednesday morning with the arrests of a Willow Grove-based physician, a Philadelphia pharmacist and dozens of conspirators.
“More people are abusing prescription drugs than common street drugs,” said special agent John Bryvonsky of the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent. “This case is extraordinarily important and should send a message to all practitioners: A drug dealer with a DEA registration is still a drug dealer.”
Dr. Norman Werther, 71, is accused of writing fraudulent prescriptions for the narcotic oxycodone. He was released on $1 million bond Wednesday afternoon.
Pharmacist Sean Maaf allegedly filled the prescriptions and laundered $900,000 in payments, which is now being sought in forfeiture.
Agents say “pseudo-patients” used Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and cash to pay for the oxycodone.
Ringleader William Stukes then distributed the drugs to street dealers, according to agents who said Stukes sold more than 200,000 pills between September 2009 and last month.
Fifty-three co-defendants, including the patients and employees of Werther, face a combined 498 counts of drug-trafficking, conspiracy and fraud-related charges. Maximum prison sentences for each count vary from 10 to 20 years.
The investigation lasted two years and included agents from the DEA, FBI and U.S. Department of Human Services.