Washington, D.C.-Area Pharmacist Indicted and Arrested on Charges Involving Illegal Pharmaceutical Shipments
WASHINGTON—A man who owned a pharmacy in Washington, D.C. has been arrested following his indictment on federal charges that he and a physician from Florida operated an Internet pharmacy site that illegally shipped prescription-required controlled and non-controlled drugs from Washington, D.C. to more than 38,000 customers in the United States.
Titilayo (Tomi) Akintomide Akinyoyenu, 47, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Nigeria, was arrested March 27, 2015, at his home in Bethesda, Md., by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The arrest followed his indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The defendant, also known as Tommy Akin, appeared in court later that day and was released on personal recognizance pending a hearing on April 3, 2015.
The indictment, which was unsealed March 27, was announced today by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.; Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Karl C. Colder, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Division Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); David M. McGinnis, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Washington Division, and Antoinette V. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the Metro Washington Field Office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
The indictment alleges that Akinyoyenu, a pharmacist licensed by the District of Columbia Board of Health, owned and operated an Internet pharmacy website known as apexonlinepharmacy.com between January 2005 and June 29, 2010. According to the indictment, pharmaceutical orders were illegally shipped to more than 38,000 U.S. customers from Apex Care Pharmacy, a pharmacy owned by the defendant that previously was located in the 4000 block of Minnesota Avenue NE.
Between June 2006 and June 2010, sales income for online transactions totaled at least $8.3 million, the indictment alleges.
The indictment also charges Alan J. Saltzman, 65, a physician from Coral Springs, Fla., with joining in the crimes. Saltzman, an osteopath who is licensed in Florida and Pennsylvania, has been sent a judicial summons to appear to answer the charges.
Physicians who write or authorize prescriptions without a valid doctor-patient relationship are issuing invalid prescriptions because the physicians are acting outside the usual course of professional practice. Likewise, pharmacists who knowingly fill such prescriptions, or who have reason to know such prescriptions are invalid, are violating the law.
The indictment alleges that Akinyoyenu, as chief pharmacist, filled more than 58,000 prescriptions (including refills) for pharmaceuticals for customers who ordered drugs over the Internet solely on the basis of their answers to an on-line medical questionnaire. Such prescriptions are invalid and hence illegal, according to the indictment, because no valid doctor/patient relationship exists by a customer requesting prescription required drugs over the Internet solely on the basis of completing an on-line questionnaire. A doctor approving such prescription requests never sees or examines the customer making the request, cannot verify the identity of such a customer, makes no physical examination, cannot verify the nature of the malady, makes no diagnosis, conducts no medical tests, and implements no treatment plan.
For example, according to the charges, Akinyoyenu filled more than 9,000 Internet orders for Fioricet, which contains butalbital, a Schedule III controlled substance. The indictment charges that these and other prescriptions were illegally filled, then shipped to Internet customers across the country, all from the back of the Apex Care Pharmacy in Northeast Washington.
The indictment alleges that Saltzman conspired with Akinyoyenu, and that he agreed to approve prescriptions requested on-line by the customers over the Internet; the indictment alleges he did so for a negotiated fee per each approved prescription. Saltzman is accused of approving all 38,000 customer requests for the Internet customers coming from all over the United States, based solely on their answers to an on-line medical questionnaire.
Both defendants are charged with four offenses: conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances, which carries a maximum possible sentence of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000; conspiracy to distribute controlled drugs over the Internet, which carries a maximum imprisonment of up to 10 years, and a fine of up to $500,000; conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, which carries a maximum period of imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $500,000; and conspiracy to engage in mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000. The indictment also makes a forfeiture allegation for at least $8.3 million, which is the amount of funds allegedly involved in the illegal Internet operation.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
This investigation was sponsored and supported by the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. Senior Litigation Counsel Linda I. Marks of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch provided assistance in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Dominguez, who coordinated the investigation and presented the evidence to the grand jury.