Hellertown pharmacists charged in alleged online drug scheme
Hellertown, Northampton Co. was shrouded in mystery earlier this week. Why was the Hellertown Pharmacy raided by the DEA, the FBI and the IRS?
The question became clear Friday. The pharmacy and two of its pharmacists were involved in an illegal internet prescription drug ring, according to court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The documents charge owner Peter J Riccio and his head pharmacist, Lena Lasher, with taking part in a scheme that allowed people to buy prescription pain medication without a legal prescription.
The two saw a financial windfall of $13 million between 2010 and 2012, federal authorities said.
Customers would visit one of five web sites and complete a medical history questionnaire with a series of yes and no questions, according to court documents. Website operators then reportedly electronically sent the form to a doctor, who without consulting or seeing the patient, would issue the prescription and send it back to the website operators.
The prescription would end up at one of three pharmacies owned by Riccio in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to the indictment.
Three out-of-state physicians and five website operators are part of the multi-count indictment. Charges include narcotics distribution, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and money laundering.
69 News visited Lasher's modest home in Hunterdon Co., N.J. and Riccio's upscale residence in Somerset Co., N.J. Neighbors said federal authorities were there Thursday, lining the streets with police and undercover units.
"I guess you could say out of any movie, it was just like lines and lines. We didn't know if something happened to them, if there was some sort of medical injury," said Vicy Mendez.
If convicted, Lasher and Riccio each faces 88 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
The U.S. attorney's office said the investigation is ongoing.
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