Published on June 19th, 2013 | by Daniel R. Perlman0
Fort Washington Doctor Convicted in Prescription Drug Ring
A Fort Washington doctor convicted in prescription drug ring was found guilty Tuesday of more than 300 counts, including distribution of a controlled substance resulting in a patient’s death.
The physician could spend the rest of his life behind bars after a federal jury on Tuesday found him guilty of more than 300 counts stemming from his involvement in a $5 million prescription drug mill.
Dr. Norman Werther, 74, of Fort Washington, was found guilty of more than 300 counts, including distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Werther was charged last year in connection with the drug overdose death of Nathaniel Backes. 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 Backes for no legitimate medical purpose. Backes’ death resulted from the use of that substance, according to authorities.
The docter, who ran his physical therapy and rehabilitation practice at 301 Davisville Road in Willow Grove, was one of 53 suspects charged in August 2011 as part of the multi-million dollar drug ring.
Authorities had said that some of the others charged had recruited large numbers of pseudo patients and transported them to Werther’s office for fake examinations. Patients paid an office visit fee, usually $150, and Werther was said to have written prescriptions for patients to obtain oxycodone-based drugs without there being a legitimate medical purpose.
The “patients” were then driven to various pharmacies, including Northeast Pharmacy, to have their prescriptions filled. Drugs were then turned over to the drug dealers so their organizations could sell the narcotics to drug dealers who resold the drugs on the street.
Authorities estimated that between February 2009 and August 2011, the drug trafficking ring earned more than $5 million through illegal prescriptions. Suspects unlawfully acquired and distributed more than 700,000 pills containing oxycodone, according to investigators.
In addition to the charge of distribution resulting in death, the jury found Werther guilty 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 faces a mandatory 20 years and maximum sentence of life in prison.
He remains free on bail until Friday.
“Dr. Werther turned his back on his professional code of ethics, becoming nothing more than a common drug pusher,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said in a press release Tuesday. “He is the antithesis of a physician. The sentence mandated for his crimes should ensure that he will never again be free to harm another human being.”
Special Agent-in-Charge Nick DiGiulio with Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General in Philadelphia, called the “diversion of dangerous prescription drugs” a “public health epidemic and a serious problem.”
Werther was said to have 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, according to authorities.
The crimes of conspiracy, distribution of controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute, and money laundering each carry a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled for Werther.
Source: plymouthwhitemarsh.patch.com “Fort Washington Doctor Convicted in Prescription Drug Ring,” June 19, 2013.