A federal grand jury has brought additional criminal charges against four people in connection with a multi-million-dollar prescription pill distribution ring that involved a Northeast Philadelphia pharmacy.
The new charges were spelled out in a 30-page, 65-count superseding indictment released publicly by federal investigators last Wednesday.
Defendants Leon Little, Colise Harmon, Heather Hertzstein and Aminah Shabazz each were charged by prior indictments in November. The latest charges largely involve the laundering of proceeds of illegal pill sales. Authorities estimate that the operation dealt hundreds of thousands of pills and raked in more than $3 million in proceeds.
Authorities identified Little, 33, of Cherry Hill, as the lead figure in the drug ring. Between August 2010 and August 2012, Little and accomplices allegedly recruited and paid dozens of people to pose as patients of a specific Philadelphia doctor to obtain prescriptions from the doctor. Little allegedly did most of the recruiting at a North Philly public housing project.
Hertzstein, 28, of Folcroft, was the receptionist in the doctor’s office and handled patient scheduling, authorities said. Further, she allegedly used the doctor’s prescription pad to forge prescriptions and was in contact with pharmacies to verify bogus prescriptions as legitimate.
The physician has not been charged or implicated in wrongdoing. Authorities did not identify him publicly.
Harmon, 34, of Philadelphia, allegedly drove the bogus patients to various pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. Northeast Pharmacy at 6730 Bustleton Ave. was one of several principal pharmacies used by the defendants. The pharmacies have not been implicated in wrongdoing.
With prescriptions filled, the bogus patients or their driver surrendered the pills to Little, who would resell them illicitly, authorities claim.
Shabazz, 36, of Cherry Hill, allegedly helped Little launder the proceeds, using numerous structured cash deposits, withdrawals and balance transfers involving numerous financial institutions.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division investigated the case. ••