Philadelphia Pharmacy Owner Sentenced for Conspiracy to Distribute Oxycodone, Healthcare Fraud

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Mitchell Spivack, 63, of Collegeville, PA, was sentenced Tuesday to three years and six months in prison, two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $451,328 restitution and to forfeit $116,000 by United States District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III, for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and healthcare fraud. These charges were the result of a joint investigation between the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.

In June 2022, the defendant pleaded guilty to a Criminal Information charging him with these offenses. According to the charging documents, Spivack owned Verree Pharmacy, a small neighborhood pharmacy located in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia, and was the pharmacist in charge for more than thirty years. During that time in business, Spivack and his coconspirators allegedly cultivated Verree’s reputation as a “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. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Spivack and his coconspirators filled prescriptions for wholesale quantities of high-dose oxycodone despite obvious alterations to the prescriptions and other red flags indicating that the drugs were not for a legitimate medical purpose. In addition, Spivack and other employees of Verree submitted entirely fraudulent claims to health care benefit programs for prescription drugs not dispensed. These drugs were designated in patient profiles as “BBDF” which was an acronym for “Bill But Don’t Fill.” From 2013 through 2019, Medicare and other insurers paid over $450,000 for these bogus claims.

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In August 2022, U.S. Attorney Romero announced that the United States filed a civil judgment with Philadelphia-based Spivack, Inc., previously operating under the name Verree Pharmacy, and defendant Spivack, to resolve allegations similar to the criminal charges. The pharmacy and Spivack have agreed to pay over $4.1 million to resolve their civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act, False Claims Act, and forfeiture. The judgment also permanently bans them from ever dispensing controlled substances in the future.

“Pharmacies and pharmacists engage in the deepest violation of the community’s trust when they exploit their access to opioids and other controlled substances and illegally dispense the drugs for their own financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “It is even more disturbing when pharmacists take advantage of their position of 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, including criminal charges and civil penalties, as was the case here.”

“Mitchell Spivack filled prescriptions outside of medical standards for the highly addictive drug oxycodone, adding fuel to the fire of a crisis that kills 14 Pennsylvanians every day,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Pharmacies and medical professionals have a responsibility under the law to dispense these drugs only when appropriate. Nothing will bring back the lives we’ve lost to this epidemic, but today’s sentence holds Spivack, and Verree pharmacy, accountable for their actions.”

If the public has any information regarding health care fraud allegations, individuals should contact the HHS-OIG hotline at 800-HHS-TIPS.

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The criminal case was investigated by the Philadelphia Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, HHS-OIG, 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, who was specially designated by the PA OAG. The civil case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Grieb and Anthony D. Scicchitano.

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