Thursday, December 27, 2012

Local Pharmacist Guilty of Filling Hundreds of Fraudulent Oxycodone Prescriptions

TAMPA—A federal jury yesterday found Emmanuel I. Mekowulu (56, Tampa) guilty of conspiring with other persons to knowingly and intentionally distribute and dispense a controlled substance, primarily Oxycodone, outside of a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice. Mekowulu faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. As part of the sentence, he will also forfeit his Florida Department of Health Pharmacist License and the DEA Registration and Florida Department of Health Pharmacy License for Felky Rx LLC, which were used to commit or facilitate the offense.
Mekowulu was indicted on April 26, 2012. His sentencing is scheduled for March 11, 2013.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, in June 2008 through March 2009, Mekowulu was a pharmacist and the owner of Felky Pharmacy located on North Florida Avenue in Tampa, Florida. During that same time period, Troy Wubbena was a physician’s assistant and owner and operator of the Neurology & Pain Center clinics located in Tampa, Lakeland, Sarasota, Orlando, and Jacksonville. Brett Ridenour was an employee of the clinics. Together, and with others, the conspirators used hundreds of blank prescriptions that were pre-signed and filled by Dr. Jeffrey Friedlander (co-owner of the clinic) for large quantities of oxycodone. The prescriptions included the names of over 60 persons, many of them patients and employees of the clinics who did not need or receive the oxycodone and were unaware that the prescriptions were written in their names. The illegal prescriptions were filled at Felky Pharmacy. Over the nearly 10-month period, Wubbena and Ridenour presented over 340 fraudulent prescriptions to Mekowulu. Mekowulu filled the prescriptions without verification or questioning their validity. Through this scheme, nearly 50,000 pills of oxycodone were later sold in the Tampa Bay area.
Wubbena and Ridenour, who testified against Mekowulu at trial, previously pleaded guilty to federal charges for their roles in the conspiracy. Wubbena was sentenced to serve 10 years in federal prison. Ridenour was sentenced to serve five years’ imprisonment. Friedlander pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy in March 2010. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
This case was investigated by and the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathy J. M. Peluso.

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