Former West Orange Pharmacist Sentenced to Thirty Seven Months In Prison for Oxycodone Sales and More

An old ad for West Orange Pharmacy. Credits: TAP
WEST ORANGE, NJ - No one suspected something was very wrong at West Orange Pharmacy, a 60-year mainstay of the West Orange community, until a July, 2009 armed robbery tipped off the police that all was not what it appeared to be.
On July 22, 2009, at about 3:30 pm, four armed men entered the West Orange Pharmacy at 443 Main Street, robbing the pharmacy's cash register and taking their Oxycontin supply. They took off in a Jeep Cherokee and were spotted in traffic by police near the pharmacy. A chase ensued through Montclair and Orange, ending in East Orange, where the suspects were apprehended on Oraton Parkway and Central Avenue. 
Malik Shakur, formerly of Newark, is serving a life sentence due to his prior convictions; James Waldren, formerly of East Orange, is serving a 15-year sentence, Benjamin Fulton, formerly of Newark, was released on parole in April 2013; and Orlando Arnold, formerly of Newark, pleaded guilty before the trial began, and is serving an eight-year sentence.

Little did the community know that the police investigation of the robbery had lead the police to equally illicit criminal activities at the pharmacy itself. In a protracted and elaborate undercover operation spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the West Orange Police Department, to name a few, it was discovered that Head Pharmacist Leonard ("Lenny") Stefanelli of East Hanover, now 49, along with twin pharmacists Robert and William Carlucci of Florham Park, now 70, had been selling oxycodone illegally. In addition, they had devised an elaborate scheme that submitted fraudulent bills to health care benefit providers, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Today, Stefanelli was sentenced to 37 months in prison; the Carlucci brothers were sentenced to 42 months in prison on March 13, 2014. In addition to the prison term, Judge Hochberg sentenced Stefanelli to three years of supervised release, fined him $1 million and permanently barred him from working in the pharmaceutical industry again.

"Is that all they got?" said an employee of a local shop near the pharmacy. "My mother discovered they had been charging her insurance company for drugs she never received."

"We went there all the time," said a former patron of the pharmacy. "They were always so nice and accommodating, saying 'don't worry, we'll take care of that ' really believed they were taking such good care of you."

The former patron continued, "They used to tell me how insurance companies were killing their business and how much they were struggling...I felt so bad for them. This whole thing has been so incredibly disappointing."

District Judge Faith Hochberg imposed Stefanelli's sentence today as his misdeeds were recounted along with those of the Carlucci brothers. In addition to the sentence Stefanelli also agreed to pay back $1.5 million in illegally gotten gains from oxycodone sales and the submission of fraudulent bills to health care benefit providers.

Oxycodone is a dangerous Schedule II controlled substance "B," meaning it has a high potential for abuse. It is the active ingredient in such brand name narcotic pills as Oxycontin. It is supposed to be dispensed under harsh restrictions and can only be distributed with a written prescription from a doctor.

An undercover operation targeted at Stefanelli  yielded hundreds of oxycontin tablets, purchased with cash and without a prescription, on at least six separate occasions from Feb. 1, 2012, to August 6, 2012, The sales took place inside the pharmacy. On February 8, 2012, Stefanelli sold one bottle of 100-count Oxycontin 30-mg tablets and one bottle of 100-count Oxycontin 15-mg tablets for $1,800 to an undercover agent.

According to a press release on July 10 from the NJ Office of the District Attorney, "between 1992 and October 2012, Stefanelli conspired with Robert and William Carlucci to to submit fraudulent bills to health care benefit providers, including Medicaid and Medicare, reaping at least $921,634 from his scheme." 

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman credited special agents of the DEA, special agents of the Food & Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Elizabeth, Clinton, Toms River, West Orange and Marlboro police departments, along with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, for their assistance in the case.
In March, 2013, the West Orange Pharmacy reopened under new ownership as West Orange Family Pharmacy.

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