Local Pharmacist Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Filling Hundreds of Fraudulent Oxycodone Prescriptions
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 12, 2013|
TAMPA—U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore sentenced Emmanuel I. Mekowulu (56, Tampa) yesterday to 10 years in federal prison for conspiring with other persons to knowingly and intentionally distribute and dispense and cause the distribution and dispensing of oxycodone outside of a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice. The court also ordered Mekowulu to forfeit his Florida pharmacist license and the pharmacy license he held for the Felky Pharmacy, both of which he used to facilitate the offense. As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $97,290, representing the proceeds of the crime. Mekowulu was found guilty by a federal jury on December 11, 2012.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, from June 2008 through March 2009, Mekowulu was a pharmacist and the owner of Felky Pharmacy located on North Florida Avenue, in Tampa. During that same time period, Troy Wubbena was a physician’s assistant and owner and operator of the Neurology & Pain Center clinics located in Tampa, Lakeland, Sarasota, Orlando, and Jacksonville. Brett Ridenour was an employee of the clinics. Together, and with others, the conspirators used hundreds of blank prescriptions that were pre-signed and filled by Dr. Jeffrey Friedlander (co-owner of the clinic) for large quantities of oxycodone.
The prescriptions included the names of more than 60 persons, many of them patients and employees of the clinics who did not need or receive the oxycodone and were unaware that the prescriptions were written in their names. The illegal prescriptions were filled at Felky Pharmacy. Over the nearly 10-month period, Wubbena and Ridenour presented more than 340 fraudulent prescriptions to Mekowulu. Mekowulu filled the prescriptions without verification or questioning their validity. Through this scheme, nearly 50,000 pills of oxycodone were later sold in the Tampa Bay area.
Wubbena, Ridenour, and Friedlander previously pleaded guilty to federal charges for their roles in the conspiracy. Wubbena was sentenced to serve 10 years in federal prison. Ridenour was sentenced to serve five years in federal prison, and Friedlander was sentenced to nine years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by and the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathy J. M. Peluso.