South Florida Pharmacy Owner Sentenced to 135 Months in Prison for Conspiracy to Illegally Distribute Hydromorphone and Oxycodone in North Florida
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Joseph Owusu, 63, of Tampa, was sentenced November 14 to 135 months in prison after pleading guilty on August 17. The sentence was announced by Christopher P. Canova, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
Co-conspirators Abbisina Hepburn, 39, and Damian Hepburn, 41, both of Miami Gardens, pleaded guilty on August 10. Co-conspirator Angela Denise Clark, 48, of Sebring, Florida, was charged in the Hepburn superseding indictment and pleaded guilty on October 22, 2018. All four defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and oxycodone. Additionally, the Hepburns pleaded guilty to substantive counts of illegal distribution of hydromorphone. As a part of his guilty plea, Owusu agreed to voluntarily surrender his Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) registration (license) to the DEA, and his pharmacist license and the Jares Pharmacy license to the State of Florida.
The Hepburns are scheduled to be sentenced on November 28, 2018, beginning at 10:30 a.m., and Clark is scheduled to be sentenced on January 3, 2019, at 10:30 a.m. All sentencing hearings will take place at the U.S. Courthouse in Pensacola.
Beginning in or about October 2015, Abbisina Hepburn and Damian Hepburn began presenting fraudulent prescriptions for hydromorphone and oxycodone to Owusu at Jares Pharmacy, which was located in Sebring, Florida. Later, in December 2016, Clark, a licensed pharmacy technician at Jares Pharmacy, became involved in the drug conspiracy.
The prescriptions presented were allegedly issued by a Hialeah doctor of osteopathy, to individuals other than Abbisina and Damian Hepburn. Owusu owned Jares Pharmacy, and was also the licensed pharmacist at Jares Pharmacy. Owusu and Clark charged the Hepburns $9.00 per tablet. After receiving the hydromorphone and oxycodone pills, the Hepburns traveled to the Northern District of Florida and elsewhere to sell the pills to third parties for a profit. During the course of his guilty plea, Owusu acknowledged that he dispensed the drugs in violation of federal law.
U.S. Attorney Canova said: “Misused prescriptions are dangerous and can contribute to the heroin and opioid epidemic our nation is currently experiencing. One of the ways we are fighting this health crisis is by prosecuting medical professionals who illegally divert controlled substances from the intended use. Corrupt pharmacists and their co-conspirators must be removed from positions allowing illegal distribution of prescription pills.”
“In 2017, over 4,000 opioid-caused deaths were reported, which is a nine percent increase over the previous year. The climbing number underscores the gravity of this problem,” said Rick Swearingen, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies across Florida are already working to combat the increase in opioid drug use, and FDLE will continue to work with our partners focusing on multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking organizations.”
“The opioid epidemic that we are facing today is one of the worst crises in American history, and our pharmacists play a vital role in preventing the illegal diversion of prescription opioid medications,” said Adolphus P. Wright, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Miami Field Division. “As demonstrated by this case, DEA remains committed to investigating unscrupulous licensed medical professionals, to include pharmacists and pharmacy owners who willingly turn a blind eye and contribute to this devastating public health emergency.”
The case was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office with assistance of the DEA Diversion Division, and the DEA. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edwin F. Knight represented the government at the Owusu sentencing hearing.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access available public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.
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