Federal Jury Convicts El Paso Pharmacist in Drug Distribution Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 19, 2011|
United States Attorney Robert Pitman announced that a federal jury this afternoon returned a guilty verdict against an El Paso pharmacist for illegally dispensing controlled substances.
Jurors found Peter Victor Ayika, age 55, guilty of one count of possession with intent to distribute hydrocodone by a practitioner and one count of distribution of a listed chemical with knowledge, or reason to know, of its wrongful intended use. Evidence presented during trial revealed that from November 2005 to March 2009, Ayika, through his business, Najerausa International, dba Continental Pharmacy, would illegally provide hydrocodone to customers. Testimony revealed that typically a pharmacy customer would initially visit Continental with a valid prescription for any of the various forms and brand names of hydrocodone. Ayika would fill the initial prescription and then offer the extra re-fills, without a valid prescription, as long as the customers were willing to pay for the medication with cash. In addition, after the expiration of the initial prescription, Ayika would continue to distribute hydrocodone in violation of federal law.
Testimony also revealed that Ayika provided substantial quantities of pseudoephedrine to an undercover agent, when Ayika was told it would be used to manufacture methamphetamine, which is a violation of federal drug control laws.
Ayika’s co-defendants have all pleaded guilty prior to trial. Francisco Noe Lozano, age 35, who worked for Ayika at Continental Pharmacy as a pharmacy technician, pleaded guilty in May 2010 to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute hydrocodone. Lozano faces up to five years in federal prison. Lozano is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:00am on November 30, 2011, before United States District Judge Frank Montalvo. In December 2009, Michael Monroe Word, age 51, and Debra Jean Hummer, age 50, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute hydrocodone and were sentenced to time served.
“The abuse of prescription drugs, such as hydrocodone, and the use of pseudoephedrine in the illicit production of methamphetamine remain significant problems in our communities. For the health and safety of our citizens, DEA will continue to target the illegal diversion of these pharmaceuticals, which can result in the tearing apart of families and the destruction of individual lives. It is particularly egregious when the perpetrator of such illegal acts is a health care professional responsible for ensuring that potentially dangerous drugs are dispensed properly. We hope that the conviction in this case serves as a reminder to anyone who might illegally divert pharmaceuticals that they will be held accountable for the harm they cause,” said Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration-El Paso Division.
This investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of Personnel Management - Office of Inspector General (OPM-OIG), Department of Health and Human Services - Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA), Texas State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP), and the Texas Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. It is being prosecuted for the government by Assistant United States Attorneys Meredith Tyrakoski and Jose Luis Gonzalez.