Two Medford-area pharmacists were charged Monday for selling large quantities of oxycodone and other drugs at two local drugstores, according to federal authorities.
Pharmacy owner Michael Ludwikowski, 44, of Medford, and his employee, David Goldfield, 58, of Medford Lakes, were charged in a 16-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances, according to court records released Monday.
The men worked at the Olde Medford Pharmacy on Stokes Road and the Medford Family Pharmacy on Old Marlton Pike, and illegally dispensed drugs between March 2008 and August 2013, according to court documents. Among their clients, officials said, were known drug addicts using phony prescriptions.
"There is a real opioid epidemic in the United States, one that's responsible for personal tragedy, widespread suffering, and enormous financial loss," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement Monday.
"Doctors, pharmacists, and other health care professionals have a unique opportunity to address this epidemic by ensuring prescription opiates are dispensed only for legitimate medical purposes," Fishman said. "Instead, Ludwikowski and Goldfield allegedly chose to exacerbate the problem by selling opiates to customers with fake prescriptions or to individuals whom they knew to be addicts."
Ludwikowski and Goldfield could not be reached for comment. An employee at the Olde Medford Pharmacy who declined to identify himself said the store was maintaining regular business hours, but could no longer fill some prescriptions, including painkillers. There was no answer at Medford Family Pharmacy.
Ludwikowski and Goldfield appeared Monday in U.S. District Court in Camden for their initial appearance. Both were ordered detained. A bail hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
According to the indictment, Olde Medford Pharmacy opened in 2008, and Medford Family Pharmacy in 2012. The businesses had been obtaining drugs from a national distributor. Ludwikowski and Goldfield repeatedly requested and received approvals for increased supplies beyond normal thresholds, allowing them to obtain tens of thousands of oxycodone pills sold to customers, the indictment said.
Among those indicted previously as part of the conspiracy was a recovering addict hired to work at the pharmacies, and customers who used phony prescriptions, sometimes filling multiple scripts within a week, according to the indictment.
Some of the illegal prescriptions were written on stolen pads while others used chemicals "to wash" the writing off legitimate prescriptions that had been changed, according to the indictment.
Both men, the indictment said, filled prescriptions knowing the pills were not for legitimate medical purposes. Customers often paid the pharmacists in cash - $190 for a bottle containing between 100 and 120 30mg oxycodone tablets. The men also accepted gifts, the indictment said, noting Ludwikowski had been given alcohol, and Goldfield accepted pornography.
Ludwikowski is also alleged to have secured an agreement with a Cherry Hill pain-management doctor who would steer his patients to Medford. One the patients living in Pennsylvania left a voice message for Ludwikowski that he was "in a little bit of a pickle" because he could not fill his prescription in Pennsylvania, but he was told Ludwikowski would do it, according to the indictment.
In addition to using the two stores, Ludwikowski was also charged with using his cellphone for his alleged part in the conspiracy, the indictment said.
The men could face as much as 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Ludwikowski potentially faces an additional four years in prison and an additional $250,000 fine for allegedly using his phone as part of the conspiracy.