Prescription forgery ring busted
HARRISBURG - Agents from the Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, along with local police from across Central Pennsylvania, are in the process of arresting nine suspects linked to a wide-reaching prescription forgery ring allegedly responsible for fabricating hundreds of bogus prescriptions for powerful pain medications.
Attorney General Linda Kelly said the arrests are the result of an extensive grand jury investigation, known as "Operation Self-Service Scripts," involving realistic looking forged prescriptions that were used to obtain drugs in Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery, Schuylkill and York counties.
Kelly said the investigation identified two central figures in the creation and distribution of these fraudulent prescriptions: Samuel Genovese, 27, of Lancaster, and Richard Wolfskill, 43, of Myerstown, Lebanon County.
"This was an elaborate and long-running effort to generate a large volume of prescriptions that appeared as authentic as possible," Kelly said. "These conspirators allegedly used hundreds of bogus prescriptions, giving them access to more than 24,000 pills with an estimated street value of nearly $500,000."
According to the grand jury, Wolfskill and Genovese allegedly began creating computer templates to fabricate prescriptions beginning in 2007, starting with Percocet and later switching to Oxycodone - both powerful narcotic pain medications that are popular with drug users.
Kelly said the forgery plan operation became increasingly more sophisticated starting in 2009, when Genovese allegedly began obtaining security prescription paper from an Internet based company. This paper contained tamper-proof features that are used by real doctors and pharmacies, including heat sensitive "Rx" symbols embedded in the paper along with copy-resistant marking that display the word "Void" if the prescription is duplicated.
Initially, Wolfskill allegedly used the names and license numbers of various doctors he had seen in the past to print new prescriptions for fictitious patients. Later, Genovese is accused of using Internet sources and websites to obtain the names and license numbers of additional doctors in an attempt to minimize suspicion.
The grand jury found that Genovese used various "runners" to assist the scheme, providing them with prescriptions, money and detailed instructions about how to fill the bogus prescriptions. The runners were typically paid with cash, pills, or a combination of both.
Kelly said that runners identified by the grand jury include Timothy Onnen, of Lancaster, along with Peter Trump and Benjamin Strauser, both of Myerstown.
Other individuals were allegedly enlisted to help fill the bogus prescriptions, to provide transportation to various pharmacies or to act as "lookouts" - alerting other group members if law enforcement approached the pharmacy while a prescription was being filled or if store staff appeared suspicious.
Kelly said individuals accused of assisting the organization include Tyler Randler, of Richland, Lebanon County; Samuel Foreman, of Lebanon; Elizabeth Boyer, current address unknown; and Aaron Suchanek, of Lebanon.
The grand jury found that Genovese instructed runners and other members of the group to only fill the prescriptions after the doctors' offices had closed so that pharmacy staff would be unable to call the doctors in order to verify the prescriptions. Agents have identified at least 20 different doctors across Central Pennsylvania whose names and prescription license numbers were used without their knowledge.
Additionally, Kelly said that accomplices were repeatedly coached to remember the names, ages and addresses of the bogus patients that were listed on the prescriptions, in the event they would be questioned by pharmacy staff.
"Working closely with local police departments across the region, we were able to gradually identify the network of people who were allegedly involved in this scheme," Kelly said. "That cooperation and flow of information allowed us to develop the evidence and testimony which was presented to the grand jury, resulting in the criminal charges that were filed today."
"Prescription drug abuse is now the nation's fastest growing drug problem," Kelly said. "It has been classified as an epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the illegal diversion and sale of prescription drugs serves as a major gateway to other forms of substance abuse."