A N.J. doctor and seven others from six towns were busted in an opiate ring that left one person dead, according to authorities.
A New Jersey doctor and seven others from six towns were busted Tuesday in a statewide opiate ring that left one person dead, according to authorities.
The doctor and seven other defendants were indicted by a state grand jury on charges that they operated a drug ring which illegally distributed tens of thousands of high-dose pills of the addictive painkiller oxycodone, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The doctor, who practiced in Somerset County, faces a first-degree charge of strict liability for an overdose death of the adult son of one of the other alleged ring members.
The Division of Criminal Justice obtained two separate state grand jury indictments charging George Beecher, 75, of New Providence with strict liability for a drug induced death, conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, one count of distribution of oxycodone and one count of distribution of alprazolam.
To supply the drug ring, Beecher allegedly wrote prescriptions “without a legitimate medical purpose” for tens of thousands of 30-milligram oxycodone pills in the names of people he never examined, treated, or even met, according to a release from the OAG.
He allegedly wrote numerous prescriptions for Jason Stoveken, including prescriptions for the oxycodone and Xanax pills that caused Stoveken’s overdose death in July 2013 at age 30. Stoveken was the son of defendant Andrew Stoveken, according to the release.
The second indictment charges the following defendants with conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance – oxycodone – and distribution of oxycodone :
- John J. Burnham, 41, of South Plainfield
- Andrew Stoveken, 66, of Edison
- Jared Burnham, 31, of South Plainfield
- George Sara, 37, of Bordentown
- Marlena Burnham, 37, of Piscataway
- Donn Rush, 34, of Somerset
- Jamar Mayers, 32, of Green Brook
The charges stem from “Operation Busted Script,” an investigation by the Attorney General’s Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team, a team of detectives and attorneys in the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau that targets corrupt healthcare professionals and “pill mills.”
John Burnham allegedly led the enterprise, coordinating the supply side and overseeing bulk and street-level pill distribution. Andrew Stoveken, who ran a hearing aid company and shared an office suite with Beecher, allegedly acted as a middleman between John Burnham and Beecher.
“We allege that even after a young man died from narcotics that Dr. Beecher falsely prescribed, Beecher and the victim’s own father, defendant Andrew Stoveken, callously continued to profit by supplying tens of thousands of oxycodone pills to drug dealers,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “With our new strike team, we’re aggressively targeting the pill mills that are fueling opiate addiction and inflicting so much misery and death in our communities.”
Regarding the strict liability for drug-induced death charge, Beecher allegedly wrote fraudulent prescriptions for Jason Stoveken for oxycodone and Xanax, which Stoveken filled just days before he fatally overdosed.
Jason Stoveken was found dead of an apparent overdose by first responders in an apartment in Hillsborough on July 27, 2013.
The medical examiner’s report concluded that his death was accidental and caused by “acute combined toxicity” because of oxycodone and Xanax. There was no evidence of alcohol or other narcotics in his system at the time of his death, according to the release.
In the months before Jason Stoveken fatally overdosed, Beecher regularly wrote false prescriptions for him for oxycodone and Xanax. Two days before Jason Stoveken died, Beecher wrote a fraudulent prescription for him for 90 oxycodone 30-milligram pills that Stoveken filled, according to the release.
Ten days before he died, Jason Stoveken refilled a prescription written for him by Beecher for 60 Xanax 2-milligram pills.
Regarding the enterprise, the investigation revealed that John Burnham allegedly coordinated the supply of oxycodone for the ring by ordering batches of prescriptions from Beecher through Andrew Stoveken, according to the release.
John Burnham allegedly contacted Stoveken and requested that he arrange for Beecher to write prescriptions in the names of various co-conspirators who posed as “patients.”
Beecher, an ear, nose and throat specialist based in Warren, allegedly wrote each of the fraudulent prescriptions filled by ring members, according to the release.
The investigation, which included a review of records in the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, determined that between January 2013 and October 2015, Beecher allegedly wrote hundreds of prescriptions for 90 oxycodone 30-milligram pills in the names of over two dozen people, according to the release.
The prescriptions involved tens of thousands of pills with a street value of over $1 million.
John Burnham allegedly met Beecher and Stoveken at their offices, as well as other places, to conduct the illicit activity. It is alleged that he usually paid $500 to Beecher and Stoveken for a prescription for 90 oxycodone 30 milligram pills.
Once Burnham collected the prescriptions, he allegedly ferried them, both directly and through intermediaries, to the various co-conspirators in whose names they were written. Those co-conspirators filled the prescriptions at pharmacies and provided the pills to the ring in exchange for cash, pills, or both.
Once pills were obtained, John Burnham coordinated their distribution, both directly and through intermediaries, to various large- and small-scale purchasers, according to the release.
On the distribution side of the operation, John Burnham used Jared Burnham and others to distribute the prescription drugs on the street, according to the release.
John Burnham allegedly relied on these distributors to purchase prescription drugs from the enterprise and sell the drugs within their own network of customers. They typically sold the 30-milligram oxycodone pills for $25 per pill, according to a release.
In addition to selling pills using the distributors as intermediaries, John Burnham also allegedly dealt directly with certain trusted “bulk purchasers,” whom allegedly included Sara.
Sara also allegedly acted as a supplier for the ring by providing pills from other sources when the ring’s supply was short, according to the release
Rush and Marlena Burnham allegedly facilitated sales of pills into and out of the enterprise, and Rush also allegedly was responsible for recruiting co-conspirators to fill prescriptions.
Mayers allegedly sold pills for the ring. In addition to their alleged distribution activities, John Burnham, Jared Burnham, Marlena Burnham, Rush and Mayers all allegedly filled prescriptions written by Beecher in their names.
Most of the defendants were initially arrested and charged in December 2015. Detectives executed a search warrant on Dec. 16 at Beecher’s medical office on Mount Boulevard Extension in Warren.