Doctor Sentenced for Running Pill Mill and Contributing to a Death
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 24, 2013|
PHILADELPHIA—Dr. Norman Werther, 73, of Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania, was sentenced today to 25 years in prison for distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death and more than 300 counts stemming from his pill mill operation. A federal jury convicted Werther on June 11, 2013, of 184 counts of illegally distributing oxycodone, 116 counts of money laundering, six counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises.
Werther was part of a multi-million-dollar drug conspiracy involving illegal prescriptions, phony patients, and multiple drug trafficking organizations. At the time, Werther was a Montgomery County physician, running a physical therapy and rehabilitation practice in Willow Grove. He conspired with six separate groups of drug dealers. Werther was involved in the drug conspiracy between February 2009 and August 2011. The operation resulted in the illegal distribution of more than 700,000 pills containing oxycodone. At least one of the drug trafficking organizations working with Werther trafficked pills valued at more than $5 million that Werther illegally prescribed.
“Instead of using his medical license to help people, Dr. Werther chose to generate tremendous profits by putting hundreds of thousands of pills on the street illegally,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen. “In one case, as the jury found, Dr. Werther’s criminal enterprise and blatant disregard for the safety of the community caused the death of a patient whom Dr. Werther knew had a history of drug addiction. The court’s sentence today will send a message to a growing community of pharmaceutical drug pushers that the justice system will impose the most severe penalties on those who are criminally responsible for our growing epidemic of pharmaceutical drug abuse.”
“Werther peddled prescription controlled substances in the very same way a street dealer pushes heroin to addicts. His sentence reflects his greed and disregard for the safety of the community he claimed to serve,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge David G. Dongilli. “DEA will continue to aggressively investigate any doctor who is selling prescriptions without a legitimate medical need, thereby contributing to the epidemic of prescription drug addiction.”
“Norman Werther got what he deserved for making a mockery of the medical profession and putting people’s lives at risk because he needed money,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “Criminals like Werther should count on an aggressive prosecution and should expect the same fate.”
Werther worked with drug traffickers who recruited large numbers of pseudo-patients. Werther set aside a specific block of time each business day to see the pseudo-patients recruited by Ronald Campbell, Anthony DiPasquale, Angel DuPrey, Kyle Jones, and William Stukes. With the help of Werther’s office staff, those “patients” were transported to Werther’s medical office at 301 Davisville Road in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, for cursory examinations. The “patients” paid an office visit fee, usually $150, by cash, check, or money order, and Werther wrote prescriptions for them to obtain oxycodone-based drugs without there being a legitimate medical purpose for the prescription and outside the usual course of professional practice. The “patients” were then driven to various pharmacies, including Northeast Pharmacy, to have their prescriptions filled. The drugs were then turned over to the drug dealers so their organizations could sell the narcotics to numerous drug dealers who resold the drugs on the street.
In September 2010, Werther knowingly dispensed approximately 150 pills containing 30 milligrams each of oxycodone and 30 pills containing 15 milligrams each of oxycodone to Nathaniel Backes for no legitimate medical purpose, and Nathaniel Backes’ death resulted from the use of that substance.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department, the North Coventry Police Department, the Upper Moreland Police Department, and the Montgomery Township Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy Beam Winter, Jason Bologna, and Michelle Rotella.