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
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