Northeast Times

Additional charges filed in pill distribution ring

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. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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