Edmonds Pharmacy "Manager of the Year" Pleads Guilty
NOV 04 -- (Seattle) – DEA Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Arnold R. Moorin and the United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Jeffrey Sullivan, announced that on October 31, 2008, Milton W. Cheung, a Washington State licensed pharmacist, entered guilty pleas to two felony offenses: Acquiring Controlled Substances by Deception and Misbranding Drugs. These offenses are punishable by up to four years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to one year of supervised release. Cheung is set for sentencing on February 13, 2009.
Cheung, 55, of Lynnwood, Washington, has been employed for the last several years as a Pharmacy Manager at the Top Food Drug Store, in Edmonds, Washington. As pharmacy manager, Cheung was the principal pharmacist responsible for the daily activities and operations at the Edmonds Top Food Drug Store. From 2003 continuing through September 2008 (when he resigned), Cheung was named Pharmacy Manager of the Year, by Haggen Incorporated, the owner of Top Food Drug Store.
During 2007, and continuing through September 2008, Cheung solicited a number of Washington State medical providers, including doctors, hospices, and clinics, as well as Top Food Drug Store customers, to provide expired and unexpired drugs to him at the Edmonds Top Food Drug Store, on the alleged basis that he would provide these drugs to less developed countries as part of a philanthropic mission. While Cheung collected these drugs, he purposefully diverted much of the drugs collected by placing the drugs into the regular supply bottles at the Top Food Drug Store. This gave him a much larger inventory of drugs to distribute to pharmacy customers and made the pharmacy which he managed appear more profitable. Cheung then proceeded to distribute these returned drugs to customers at the Edmonds Top Food Drug Store when filling new customer prescriptions, even though a large portion of these drugs were expired, and despite the fact that all of the drugs had been adulterated in that they had already been distributed to and possessed by others, and were returned merchandise which Cheung was doling out as new inventory. Among the drugs deceptively collected by Cheung and later distributed by him, were such Schedule II through IV controlled substances as fentanyl, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and lorazapam, in addition to other drugs.
All prescription drugs carry an expiration date after which the drugs are no longer regarded as medically effective or safe to consumers. The entire drug re-distribution scheme conducted by Cheung, under the guise of providing drugs to developing nations, was unlawful; no such program had been sanctioned by the DEA or any other valid regulatory authority. In addition, all prescription medications in pharmacies are required by federal regulation to be maintained in stock containers which show their true lot number and expiration date. This is done to ensure the safety of what is being sold and distributed to the public. Cheung’s prescription misbranding effectively countermanded and negated these safeguards.
In September 2008, in response to the criminal conduct by Cheung, Haggen Incorporated issued a drug recall, printed in the Seattle Times, advising customers of the Edmonds Top Food Drug Store to return all potentially expired drugs.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service and the Edmonds Police Department.