TEWKSBURY MAN CONVICTED OF UNLAWFUL SALE OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Boston, MA...A Tewksbury man pleaded guilty today in federal court to diverting about $548,000 of prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) where he worked as a pharmacy buyer.
Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in New England; United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan; Mark Dragonetti, Resident Agent in Charge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations in New England; Joseph C. Moraski, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Inspector General; and Christine C. Ferguson, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, announced today that MARK A. CATANZANO, age 50, of 970 Whipple Road, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole to a forty-four count indictment charging him with conspiracy, unlicensed wholesale distribution of prescription drugs, sale of prescription drugs which had been purchased by a hospital, fraud against a federally funded organization, engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity, and false statements in connection with the scheme.
At today’s plea hearing, the prosecutor told the Court that, had the case proceeded to trial, the evidence would have proven that on numerous occasions between August, 2001 and March, 2002, CATANZANO ordered prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals and authorized BIDMC to pay approximately $548,000 for them. CATANZANO sold the prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals, paid for by BIDMC, to a New Jersey pharmacist, Joseph Chebli. Chebli kept some of the pharmaceuticals for sale in his independent pharmacy in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, and distributed the rest to a friend, another New Jersey pharmacist who also operated a wholesale business. CATANZANO directed Chebli to make checks in payment for the drugs payable to CATANZANO and send them to his home address in Tewksbury. Chebli’s friend, who was not named or charged in the indictment, also wrote checks in payment for the pharmaceuticals and those were also mailed by Chebli to CATANZANO. As a result of the scheme, CATANZANO received about $415,000 which he used for personal expenses, such as refinancing and paying down the mortgage on his Tewksbury home, home improvements, a new car, a timeshare in Aruba and other personal items.
CATANZANO and Chebli were first introduced through a third party, Grace Dube, who had worked with CATANZANO previously at BIDMC, and who was then working as a pharmacist in New Jersey. CATANZANO agreed to sell insulin to Chebli after a conversation CATANZANO had with Dube in August, 2001. Dube asked CATANZANO if he was willing to sell insulin to “Joe,” another pharmacist in New Jersey. CATANZANO agreed and sent a quantity of insulin to Dube at her residence in New Jersey which she then delivered to Chebli. After the first couple of initial orders, CATANZANO and Chebli began dealing directly with each other, without Dube’s involvement, for shipments of insulin, numerous prescription drugs, and other pharmaceuticals.
Judge O’Toole scheduled sentencing for March 22, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. CATANZANO faces a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the unlicensed wholesale distribution and monetary transaction charges; 5 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy and false statement charges; and 3 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the sale of hospital prescription drugs and fraud against a federally funded organization offenses. The Government is also seeking the forfeiture of several bank accounts, the car, and CATANZANO ’s residence at 970 Whipple Road in Tewksbury.
Chebli and Dube were also charged for their role in the diversion scheme. Both pleaded guilty and were placed on probation. As part of plea agreements with the Government, Chebli and Dube each agreed to surrender their pharmacists’ licenses for a period of time.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Tactical Diversion Squad; U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General; and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of Food and Drugs.