Arrests & Investigation into Taxpayer-Bankrolled Prescription Drug Operation
DEC 22 - (Edison, NJ) - Gerard P. McAleer, Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, Special Agent in Charge, and Mayor Jun Choi Edison Township along with top law enforcement officials announced arrests and an ongoing investigation into public employees’ abuse, illegal use and resale of prescription drugs.
Specifically, Township officials have uncovered the abuse and illegal resale of prescription drugs, namely the narcotic pain killer OxyContin and its generic version Oxycodone. Public employees, or their families, were filling multiple prescriptions in the range of 400 to more than 2,000 pills of OxyContin in a single month.
The abuses have cost Edison taxpayers at least $300,000 during the last 2 years and put an estimated street value of $1.2 million of these drugs on the street per year.
“The public’s implicit trust in government has been abused. This is both a shocking and egregious offense. This is a looting of public resources that victimized taxpayers and even high school students,” said Mayor Choi, who also serves at the Township’s Public Safety Director.
The current investigation involves the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We commend the efforts in Edison and the Township leadership for addressing this problem. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise and we, together, will remain vigilant on this insidious issue. DEA will continue to provide resources and assist in all aspects of this investigation,” said Gerard P. McAleer, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. DEA New Jersey Division.
Thus far, three custodians at Edison High School have been arrested and charged in connection with the illegal use and sale of OxyContin.
Brian M. Dunham, a 26-year-old Township resident and Board of Education employee who serves as a custodian at Edison High School, was arrested in March for taking numerous items from students’ lockers. The items include multiple pieces of jewelry, a Bose sound dock digital music system and at least three iPods. This individual is an Oxycontin abuser and he would steal these items, sell them and take the cash to go buy more pills on the street. He has been indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury and is awaiting trial.
Paul M. Holzinger, 48 of South River, a Board of Education employee who also serves as a custodian at Edison High School, was arrested in May and charged with possession and intent to distribute OxyContin at Edison High School, at the 7-11 on Woodbridge Avenue and at a residence on Walton Street. He has been indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury and is awaiting trial.
Spencer T. Van Pelt, 32, of Edison, a Board of Education employee who also serves as a custodian at Edison High School, was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled and dangerous substance on November 17th. While under surveillance, police watched Van Pelt as he waited 45 minutes parked in his Jeep at the back of the Wal-Mart parking lot. He made a clear hand-to-hand exchange for the drugs with a woman who pulled in and directly approached him. Police then approached the vehicle and the subsequent search of his body resulted in the recovery of 17 Oxycontin pills, which Van Pelt admitted buying from the woman. He is currently awaiting trial in Edison Municipal Court.
A fourth individual, a former Edison firefighter, who is now a custodian for the Board of Education, has also been charged.
Anthony M. Luminiello, 31, of North Brunswick, a former Edison Firefighter and a current custodial employee of the Board of Education, is charged with stealing a doctor’s prescription pad and writing fraudulent prescriptions. He is charged with illegally obtaining OxyContin and with possessing the drug. Luminiello is one of the individuals who the investigation shows received more than 1,000 pills in a given month. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Friday. He is expected him to turn himself in today.
An administration official discovered the abuse during a budget analysis period. When Business Administrator Anthony Cancro noticed that prescription drugs alone were costing taxpayers millions beyond budgeted expectations he further researched the prescription utilization reports. There he found a consistent pattern of individuals, doctors and the dispensing of narcotic drugs. At that point the investigation was turned over to the Edison Police who worked in conjunction with the U.S. DEA, the FBI and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Oxycodone is a narcotic pain killer that is twice as potent as morphine. OxyContin is a timed-released version of the drug. It comes in 10, 20, 40 and 80 mg doses. The street value is a $1 per mg. It is usually crushed to breakdown the timed-release component and then snorted or injected. It is known for its heroin-like effect and like heroin it is highly addictive.
The drug has led to drug-related crimes. Last week a man robbed a Rite-Aid in San Diego at knifepoint for OxyContin and another gun-toting man robbed a CVS in Minnesota for the drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse released a study Dec. 14 that stated 5% of high school seniors reported the non-medical use of OxyContin.