SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A South Plainfield man and members of his family were among seven people that were charged as alleged members of a drug ring that distributed tens of thousands of high-dose pills of the addictive painkiller oxycodone, according to Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. Six were arrested and one is being sought as a fugitive. The defendants include a doctor with a practice in Somerset County who allegedly wrote false prescriptions for oxycodone for people he never treated or examined to supply the ring’s illegal distribution activities, which included street-level dealing and sales to bulk purchasers.
Detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice arrested Dr. George Beecher, 75, of New Providence, N.J., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, on second-degree charges of conspiracy and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. Detectives executed a search warrant at Beecher’s medical office on Mount Boulevard Extension in Warren, N.J. Beecher allegedly issued prescriptions for tens of thousands of 30 milligram tablets of oxycodone in the names of individuals he never examined, treated, or even met. There allegedly was no legitimate medical purpose for the prescriptions.
The following four individuals were arrested over the past two days on the same charges as Beecher:
- Andrew Stoveken, 65, of Edison, N.J., was arrested, Dec. 16,
- Jared Burnham, 31, of South Plainfield, N.J., was arrested yesterday,
- Marlena Burnham, 36, of Piscataway, N.J., was arrested yesterday, and
- George Sara, 37, of Bordentown, N.J., was arrested yesterday.
Another individual was charged with them but is not being identified because he remains a fugitive.
John J. Burnham, 41, of South Plainfield, who is the brother of Jared and Marlena Burnham, was arrested on Nov. 23 on a charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute. He allegedly managed the supply side of the distribution ring and also oversaw bulk and street-level distribution by the ring.
The charges stem from “Operation Busted Script,” an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team, a newly formed team of detectives and attorneys in the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau that targets corrupt healthcare professionals and “pill mills.”
“We allege this doctor and his criminal associates were heartlessly cashing in on the epidemic of opiate abuse in our communities, where users frequently start with the potent pain pills this ring distributed and then are sucked into a dark void of addiction, heroin use, and, far too often, death,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “It’s outrageous that a doctor would enrich himself by peddling sickness and death. We’re cracking down on these ‘pill mills’ and the licensed professionals who perpetuate them.”
“Our Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team was formed for the express purpose of targeting this type of criminal syndicate,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “The growth of opiate addiction in New Jersey means growing demand for these high-dose oxycodone pills, which can command a price of $20 to $30 apiece on the street. We’re working to apprehend those who profit from this deadly commerce, so we can make them pay for the misery they inflict in our communities.”
On the supply side of the operation, Beecher allegedly wrote hundreds of prescriptions for 30 mg oxycodone tablets for various “patients” to fill. In reality, Beecher never saw those individuals as patients. John Burnham allegedly coordinated the delivery of those prescriptions to the “patients.” Once the prescriptions were filled by the “patients,” the “patients” were provided with money, pills, or a combination of both, as payment.
When John Burnham needed new batches of prescriptions written in various names, he allegedly used Stoveken as an intermediary between himself and Beecher. Stoveken shares an office suite with Beecher, from which he runs a company that sells hearing aids. In addition to obtaining pills from prescriptions written by Beecher and filled by various associates, John Burnham allegedly dealt directly with other bulk suppliers who funneled pills to the enterprise. John Burnham allegedly met Beecher and Stoveken at their offices, as well as other places, to conduct the illicit activity. It is alleged he usually paid $500 to Beecher and Stoveken for a 90-pill prescription for 30 milligram oxycodone tablets.
On the distribution side of the operation, it is alleged that John Burnham used Jared Burnham and others to distribute the prescription drugs on the street. John Burnham allegedly relied on these distributors to purchase prescription drugs from the enterprise and sell the drugs within their own network of customers. In addition to selling pills using the distributors as intermediaries, John Burnham also allegedly dealt directly with certain trusted “bulk purchasers,” who allegedly included Sara.
Beyond distributing pills, Jared Burnham allegedly acted as a “patient” to fill false prescriptions. It is alleged that Marlena Burnham and the man who remains a fugitive also allegedly filled false prescriptions as “patients.” Sara allegedly was a bulk purchaser from the ring, but at times he also allegedly acted as a supplier for the ring by providing pills from other sources when the ring’s supply was short.
The investigation, which included a review of records in the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, determined that between January 2013 and October 2015, Beecher allegedly issued fraudulent prescriptions in the names of over two dozen individuals for more than 60,000 tablets of oxycodone. He also allegedly wrote fraudulent prescriptions for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
Detectives Kevin Gannon and Michael Rasar conducted the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice, and Deputy Attorney General Michael King is the lead prosecutor on the case. King is a member of the Specialized Crimes Bureau assigned to the Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team within the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. They conducted the investigation under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Annmarie Taggart and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also thanked the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section for their valuable assistance in the investigation.
The five defendants who were arrested in the past two days were lodged in the Middlesex County Jail, with bails set at $100,000 (Stoveken and Sara), $75,000 (Beecher and Jared Burnham), or $20,000 (Marlena Burnham).
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.