Tip from Berks pharmacist leads to 'prescription drug mill'

'If you see something wrong, tell us'

Video report by WFMZ's Tom Rader

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's top prosecutor is praising a Berks County pharmacist for helping law enforcement authorities put a "prescription drug mill" out of business.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday the arrests of 10 people accused of passing fake prescriptions in Berks, Bucks, Lancaster, and Philadelphia counties and obtaining more than 12,600 Oxycodone pills and other opioids for resale on the streets of southeastern Pennsylvania.

The investigation began in November 2016 when a Reading-area pharmacist suspected a fraudulent prescription and contacted police, Shapiro said. The pharmacist said he had noticed a surge of Oxycodone prescriptions in a doctor's name over a short period of time.

"Because of this pharmacist's vigilance, our agents and other police were able to identify and dismantle this prescription drug ring," Shapiro said. "We're asking pharmacists and medical professionals across our commonwealth: If you see something wrong, tell us. We'll act on your information."

The fraudulent prescription drug mill was run by David Francis Lawson of Philadelphia, who created fake prescriptions on his home computer using prescription paper obtained from office supply stores, Shapiro said.

The fake prescriptions included a phone number of a co-conspirator, who would "verify" the prescription if a pharmacist called to check the legitimacy of the fake prescriptions, Shapiro said.

"We're committed to prosecuting drug dealers, whether they're operating on street corners, in doctors' offices – or from behind their home computer screens," Shapiro said. "Prescription drugs are fueling this crisis and my office is focused on stopping illegal diversion of these powerful opioid medications."

Lawson provided fraudulent prescriptions to his accomplices in exchange for a payment of $250 and a portion of their prescription -- usually 30 Oxycodone pills, Shapiro said. Lawson would then sell the prescription pills he obtained to an unknown individual.

Lawson is charged with 26 felony counts of acquisition of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge and other charges.

Also arrested on various felony drug offenses were Robert Belik, 44, of Reading; Joseph Durfor, 47, in the Bucks County Jail; Jeffrey Gavella, 37, of Philadelphia; Dennis Hickey, 38, of Ridley Park; Gabrielle Jaslow, 39, of the Berks County Jail; Richard Loewen, 26, of Philadelphia; Michael Malone, 42, address unknown; David Shlamowitz, 31, in the Berks County Jail, and Amy Ungar, 34, of Philadelphia.

The Reading and West Reading police departments and the Berks County district attorney's office assisted in the investigation, along with East Lampeter Township police and prosecutors from Bucks and Lancaster counties.

"This investigation is a great example of law enforcement agencies working together to make a dent in the opioid problem that plagues our state," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams.

DISCLAIMER FOR COMMENTS: The views expressed by public comments are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the TERMS OF USE  and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Your comments may be used on air. Be polite. Inappropriate posts or posts containing offsite links may be removed by the moderator.

This Week's Circulars

Berks Area News

Latest From The Newsroom