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A doctor and two businessmen have been convicted in federal court in San Francisco of conspiracy and other charges related to a scheme that sold $24 million worth of drugs online without medically justified prescriptions. Physician Joseph Carozza, 67; Christopher Napoli, 46, of Newtown Square, Penn.; and Daniel Johnson, 40, of Pekin, Ill., were found guilty Thursday by a jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston after a six-week trial.
They will be sentenced by Illston on Feb. 22. All three men were convicted of two counts of conspiring to distribute and distributing controlled substances that were sold outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. Napoli and Johnson were also convicted of money laundering conspiracy. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said evidence at the trial showed that Napoli ran an Internet pharmacy called SafescriptsOnline between 2004 and 2006, Johnson developed software for it and Carozza approved customers’ drug orders.
Haag said the pharmacy sold 4.4 million doses of drugs during that time and took in $24 million in revenue and that Carozza and other doctors approved the drug orders without conducting a physical examination or even speaking to the patients. Haag said the trial evidence showed that Carozza approved 184,000 drug orders in an 11-month period, including at one point 12,000 in a single day.
The drug orders were based on brief online questionnaires filled out by the customers, according to a 2010 federal grand jury indictment. The substances included tranquilizers, diet pills and impotency drugs. According to court papers, the defendants sought to argue that the law concerning online pharmacies wasn’t clear at the time of their actions. In 2008, Congress clarified the law by passing a statute that makes it illegal to distribute prescription drugs online unless a doctor has conducted an in-person medical evaluation in the physical presence of the patient.
But prosecutors successfully argued their case was based on a previously existing law that prohibits the distribution of prescription drugs “outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.” Four other participants in the scheme previously pleaded guilty, and four others pleaded guilty or were convicted in connection with related schemes centered on other online pharmacies.
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