Federal prosecutors charged drug distributor Rochester Drug Cooperative and two of its former executives with illegally shipping prescription painkillers and defrauding the federal government. It was the first time a major wholesaler has faced criminal charges related to the opioid crisis, reports the Wall Street Journal. The defendant, a group of independent pharmacies based in Rochester, N.Y., agreed Tuesday to pay a $20 million fine to settle civil and criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. The cooperative admitted misconduct and agreed to defer criminal prosecution for five years, including three years of monitoring by an expert who will report to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The government also charged Laurence Doud III, 75, the former CEO of Rochester Drug Cooperative, and William Pietruskzewski, 53, the former chief compliance officer. Both face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. Pietruskzewski pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government. The company and the executives were charged with illegally distributing the painkillers oxycodone and fentanyl, as well as conspiring to defraud the DEA. As for Doud, his attorney, Robert Gottlieb, said he “is being framed. The government has it all wrong and is being used by others to cover up their own wrongdoing.” From 2012 to 2016, the cooperative’s sales of oxycodone tablets grew from 4.7 million to 42.2 million while sales of fentanyl grew from 63,000 doses to more than 1.3 million, according to prosecutors.