TALLAHASSEE – LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – Attorney Gen…

TALLAHASSEE – LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – Attorney General Charlie Crist today announced that a Texas man has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for his role in a South Florida crime ring that dealt in illegally adulterated prescription drugs intended for cancer, AIDS and other high-risk patients. Crist said the case highlights the need to safeguard the quality of prescription drugs.

A Broward County jury in March convicted Tom Martino of engaging in an organized scheme to defraud and other charges contained in a 2003 indictment from a statewide grand jury. The case was prosecuted by Crist’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

The 32-count indictment charged Martino and 17 co-conspirators with various crimes associated with selling adulterated prescription drugs to the wholesale market after the medications had been re-labeled, stolen, illegally imported or improperly stored. The crime ring’s profits were estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. The indictment was the result of a joint investigation by a number of state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.

“Diluted drugs from the black market are making it into the legitimate health care system,” said Crist. “Innocent patients can die from taking watered-down medicines distributed by criminals like Martino.”

Martino, 35, was found guilty on charges of organized scheme to defraud and purchase or receipt of a prescription drug from an unauthorized person. The sentence was handed down by Broward County Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein.

Prescription drugs sold by the crime ring included Neupogen, used for cancer and HIV patients; Gammagard (Gamimune, Iveegam and Panglobulin), used for HIV patients; Epogen (Procrit), used for cancer and AIDS patients, and Lipitor, used to lower blood cholesterol. Martino’s activities specifically involved Epogen and Panglobulin.

Seventeen other individuals were indicted for their participation in the scheme. Martino’s case is the first to be brought to trial; aside from two fugitives, the co-conspirators are all awaiting trial. Agencies involved in the investigation included the Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Food and Drug Administration, the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Florida Department of Health.

As a result of the work of the statewide grand jury, the Florida Legislature passed the Prescription Drug Protection Act of 2003 strengthening the requirements for “pedigree papers” on prescription medications – detailed records intended to show that medications moved properly from manufacturer to wholesaler to distributor to patient. The
2003 act specified that pedigree papers accompany each shipment of prescription drugs beginning this July 1. During the 2006 session, the Legislature approved a bill containing numerous amendments, including one that would weaken the tracking system and compromise the safety of prescription drugs, particularly including cancer and AIDS treatment drugs.

A copy of the 2003 indictment of Martino and his co-defendants is available at: http://myfloridalegal.com/IndictmentCarlowetal.pdf

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