Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the arrests of four individuals, including the formerly registered pharmacist-in-charge, who allegedly conspired to illegally obtain and distribute the highly addictive opioid painkiller oxycodone out of Panther Valley Pharmacy in Allamuchy.
It is alleged, based on prescription records, that more than 30,000 high-dose 30-milligram oxycodone pills – known as “blues” – were illegally diverted from the pharmacy through the criminal scheme. The following defendants were arrested and charged with Conspiracy, Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) and Distribution of a CDS:
- Anny Chan, 51, of Clinton, formerly the registered pharmacist-in-charge at Panther Valley Pharmacy
- Milagros Santiago, 43, of Haledon
- Jonathan Miller, 34, of Whippany
- Siraj Vickers, 39, of Tobyhanna
In addition, Santiago is charged with Theft by Unlawful Taking, and Santiago, Miller and Vickers are charged with Falsifying Medical Records and Falsifying or Tampering with Records. The arrests were made between February 9 and yesterday, February 23.
“Oxycodone has long been the gateway drug for the opioid epidemic, which is claiming so many lives in New Jersey and across the nation,” Attorney General Grewal said. “We will continue to prosecute the licensed professionals and other criminals who divert these opioid pills into our communities and cause so much addiction, misery and death, either directly through pill overdoses or by leading users to the cheaper and deadlier alternatives of heroin and fentanyl.” “Prescription drug abuse is a major driver of opioid addiction, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat the diversion of these dangerous drugs into our communities,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. The New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP), operated within the Division of Consumer Affairs, is an electronic database that collects information from pharmacies on the dispensing of CDS – including opioids – to individual patients.
It creates a record for the patient so that healthcare providers can understand a patient’s full prescription drug history. The tool aims to improve prescribing practices, target treatment to at-risk patients, and mitigate the risk of potential abuse or fraud by patients who obtain prescriptions from multiple providers. “Battling New Jersey’s opioid epidemic is a top priority for the Division of Consumer Affairs, and the NJPMP is one of our most powerful tools in that fight,” Kaitlin A. Caruso, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “In this case, information from the database revealed suspicious activity that, upon further investigation, uncovered the criminal activity that led to these charges. We are proud of the role our PMP and our Enforcement Bureau played in shutting down this dangerous illegal prescription drug enterprise.” In September 2019, the investigating agencies received information from the Monmouth County Medical Examiner’s Office about suspicious activity at Panther Valley Pharmacy in Allamuchy, which included oxycodone prescriptions being filled for a deceased individual up to a year after his death, and a drastic spike in the number of CDS dosage units being dispensed. The investigation – including the execution of a court-authorized search warrant on the pharmacy on November 7, 2019,– revealed that Miller, Chan, Santiago, Vickers, and others allegedly conspired during the months of April 2018 through approximately October 2019 to illegally obtain and distribute oxycodone and promethazine by removing the CDS from the pharmacy under the guise of falsified New Jersey prescription blanks.
The prescription blanks were allegedly unlawfully taken from St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, and Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck. During the search of the pharmacy, approximately 167 falsified oxycodone prescriptions that ranged in date from April 27, 2018, to September 26, 2019, were recovered, as well as records and electronic devices.
A subsequent review of seized cellphones revealed communications between a pharmacy technician and Miller, Santiago and Vickers. The communications showed that Miller and Vickers allegedly purchased the oxycodone and promethazine removed from the pharmacy and participated in the falsification of the prescriptions.
Santiago, a pharmacy technician at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, allegedly stole prescription blanks that were used to falsify the prescriptions to cover the illegal distribution of CDS from the pharmacy. Chan allegedly agreed to allow illegitimate prescriptions to be filled in the pharmacy in exchange for payment.