A 79-year-old Lansdowne doctor known for his civic involvement has been arrested and charged with selling prescription drugs from his home office.
Lenwood Boyer Wert of the 200 block of North Lansdowne Avenue prescribed Oxycodone and other painkillers on a cash-only basis, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said.
"Dr. Wert is no different than a drug dealer standing on the corner. In fact, he's worse because he's operating under the guise of a medical professional," Whelan said at a news conference to announce the arrest.
Neither Wert nor his lawyer, Leonard D. Biddison, could be reached for comment.
Lansdowne Police Chief Dan Kortan said Wert had lived in the borough for more than three decades, often attended council meetings, and even ran for school board and the borough council.
Police suspected Wert of running a pill mill from his Colonial home, though they could not make an arrest until the Delaware County Heroin Task Force got involved last year, Kortan said.
"Having the information and doing something about it was very difficult," Kortan said, adding that running an undercover operation would be impossible in a one-square-mile town where everyone seems to know everyone else.
Whelan said the task force sent in two undercover officers, who easily received prescriptions for Oxycodone, Soma, and Xanax when they complained about back pain and other ailments.
He said Wert charged $150 for an initial visit, when he did a "cursory exam," then $100 thereafter. He saw from 40 to 60 patients two days a week.
A search of his home turned up $500,000 in cash stuffed in boxes, tins, and safes, Whelan said.
Wert turned himself in Wednesday and was charged with 536 counts of selling prescriptions to drug-dependent people and 542 counts of administering a controlled substance that is not medically necessary.
He was arraigned before District Judge Nicholas S. Lippincott and released on $500,000 unsecured bail.
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Thursday before Lippincott.
Whelan said some of Wert's patients had overdosed and some had died. Even after they overdosed, patients continued to receive pills from Wert, Whelan said.