Pharmacist Peter Riccio, a Warren Township, New Jersey resident, was represented by New Jersey / New York Criminal Defense Attorney Robert G. Stahl, who secured a two-year probation sentence after Riccio was charged federally with nine others in connection with a multimillion-dollar online prescription drugs fraud scheme.
Riccio operated two bricks-and-mortar pharmacies, Towne Pharmacy in Middlesex County, New Jersey and the Hellertown Pharmacy in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.
The original Southern District of New York indictment charged the defendants with operating a two-year scheme involving more than $13 million in prescription drugs that were sold online in violation of federal law requiring physical examinations before scheduled prescription drugs are dispensed.
Ricco had been contacted by operators abroad seeking to partner with his pharmacies in dispensing drugs but was adamant that non-scheduled drug prescriptions only were to be dispensed, Mr. Stahl told the media.
Riccio's two locations, like many small bricks-and-mortar pharmacies across the country, were in tooth-in-nail competition with large national drug store chains, Stahl said. Riccio saw the new online dispensing business as a way to improve his bottom line as well as serve individuals who are immobile or othewise not able to travel to his, or any other, bricks-and-mortar pharmacy.
Riccio's son, for whom he was caretaker, was paralyzed in a high school wrestling match and the additional income also helped Ricco underwrite large investments in equipment and home renovations he had to make for his paralyzed son.
But Ricco was not vigilant enough to conform his pharmacy to government regulations for online drugs and scheduled substances, Stahl said, and as a result a banned drug added to the list was not stopped from being filled online.
"It was this gray area," Stahl told the Easton, Pennsylvania, Express Times. "This wasn't unscrupulous, nefarious criminal activity. But he acknowledged in pleading guilty that he should have took notice and steps to stop orders for the drug."
That negligence, Stahl said, landed Riccio in criminal court and left his financial life in tatters. In addition to probation Riccio agreed to forfeit more than $300,000 in return for unfreezing assets needed for his son.
"He's trying to put his life back together. That's not easy for someone his age," Stahl said. "He's doing the best that he can," Stahl told the Express-Times. Ricco also surrendered his New Jersey pharmacist license.
Coverage in the
Express-Times Report on Lehigh Valley Live