Collegeville Pharmacist Charged by U.S. Attorney’s Office

PHILADELPHIA PA – A Collegeville resident who owned and was a pharmacist at a Northeast Philadelphia pharmacy has been charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, specifically oxycodone, and healthcare fraud, Philadelphia-based United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced Wednesday (June 1, 2022).

Williams reported charges against Mitchell Spivack, 62, of Collegeville resulted from a joint investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which she leads, and the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The pharmacy, in the city’s Fox Chase section, also is the subject of a federal civil lawsuit filed during January.

Information from Williams alleged that Spivack owned and operated Verree Pharmacy, “a small neighborhood pharmacy, for more than thirty years.” During that time, according to the Wednesday statement, “Spivack and his co-conspirators allegedly cultivated Verree’s reputation as an ‘easy fill’ and ‘no questions asked’ pharmacy for oxycodone and other dangerous and addictive opioid drugs.”

“By 2016, Verree was the largest purchaser of oxycodone among retail pharmacies in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” it claimed. It also alleged “Spivack and his co-conspirators filled prescriptions for wholesale quantities of high-dose oxycodone, despite obvious alterations to the prescriptions and other red flags indicating the drugs were not for a legitimate medical purpose.”

“The defendant is charged with filling prescriptions outside of medical standards for the highly addictive drug oxycodone,” Shapiro noted. “Diversion of these drugs perpetuates the existing opioid crisis that killed 5,438 Pennsylvanians last year.”

Additionally, Spivack and other employees of Verree allegedly “submitted entirely fraudulent claims to health care benefit programs for prescription drugs not dispensed.” From 2013 through 2019, Medicare and other insurers paid more than $450,000 “for these bogus claims,” it stated.

Williams claimed the alleged conspirators violated community trust, and took advantage of that trust “by fraudulently billing” Medicare and other federal health care programs. “Our office will use every resource it has to pursue and hold these individuals accountable,” she said. Williams and Shapiro mutually praised their cooperative efforts in the case.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, a special assessment, and an order of restitution.

The criminal case was investigated by the Philadelphia Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, and the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Beth Leahy and Special Assistant United States Attorney Linda Montag.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier filed a civil suit against Spivack, his company, and employees alleging healthcare fraud and violations of the Controlled Substances Act. The civil case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony D. Scicchitano.

Williams’ announcement acknowledged that her information represented only an accusation, and that the defendant “is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

Photo by Anton Matyukha via Deposit Photos, used under license