MAR 22 - NEW YORK, NY (March 22, 2007) – John P. Gilbride, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the take down of a pharmaceutical drug ring that included more than 28 residents of Nassau County and Queens County.
Special Agent in Charge John P. Gilbride said, “Diverting pharmaceuticals is a crime. And in this case, the drug deals occurred behind a Pharmacy counter. Thousands of fraudulent prescriptions were being filled in order to fuel prescription drug abuse. In the last five years prescription drug abuse has risen more than two thirds nationwide, it is the DEA’s responsibility to work with out law enforcement partners to monitor prescriptions and ensure that legitimate pharmaceuticals are not diverted for illegitimate abuse.”
Howard Topchik, the ring’s leader, was charged with Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree. Mr. Topchik and his wife were the owners of Terrace Pharmacy in Oceanside, a business that sold nearly twice the amount of the powerful painkiller Vicodin as the average pharmacy in the United States in 2005. Vicoden is a brand of hydrocodone, a powerful and potentially addictive painkiller that can have a street value of anywhere between $2 and $4 per pill. Terrace Pharmacy sold almost three times more than the average pharmacy in the State of New York during that time period. The pharmacy was sold to CVS in April 2006.
The pharmacy’s inordinate sale of Vicodin was uncovered by investigators during an investigation into a series of burglaries and one armed robbery that had occurred at the pharmacy between October and December of 2005.
Terrace Pharmacy sold more than 149,300 doses of the prescription drug in 2005. The drugs were purchased with phony prescriptions that in some cases were photocopies of originals or had changes in patient’s name. Some prescriptions even included crayon writing or names other than the customer’s. The investigation revealed that Mr. Topchik rarely, if ever, asked for identification and sometimes didn’t even bother to look at the prescription at all. All sales were cash transactions.
Many of the 27 defendants charged with Forgery in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree have been debriefed by the District Attorney’s Office and some have been given the option of drug treatment, if deemed appropriate.
Mr. Topchik faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges.