NJ doctor helped drug dealers distribute 60,000 high-dose oxycodone pills, authorities say
Authorities say seven people — including a doctor — took part in a ring to distribute 60,000 high-dose oxycodone pills. One remains a fugitive.
The doctor involved in the ring wrote wrote false prescriptions for oxycodone for people he never treated or examined to supply the ring’s illegal distribution activities, according to the state attorney general's office.
Those activities included street-level dealing and sales to bulk purchasers, authorities said.
Somerset County-based Dr. George Beecher, 75, of New Providence was arrested on Wednesday on second-degree charges of conspiracy and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance.
Detectives executed a search warrant at Beecher’s medical office on Mount Boulevard Extension in Warren, the prosecutor's office said. Beecher allegedly issued prescriptions for tens of thousands of 30 milligram tablets of oxycodone in the names of individuals he never examined, treated, or even met.
Authorities also said the following people were arrested in the time since:
• Andrew Stoveken, 65, of Edison, on Wednesday
• Jared Burnham, 31, of South Plainfield, on Thursday
• Marlena Burnham, 36, of Piscataway, on Thursday
• George Sara, 37, of Bordentown, on Thursday
Another individual was charged with them but is not being identified because he remains a fugitive, authorities said.
John J. Burnham, 41, of South Plainfield, who is the brother of Jared and Marlena Burnham, was arrested on Nov. 23 on a charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, authorities said. He allegedly managed the supply side of the distribution ring and also oversaw bulk and street-level distribution by the ring.
“We allege this doctor and his criminal associates were heartlessly cashing in on the epidemic of opiate abuse in our communities, where users frequently start with the potent pain pills this ring distributed and then are sucked into a dark void of addiction, heroin use, and, far too often, death,” Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement. “It’s outrageous that a doctor would enrich himself by peddling sickness and death. We’re cracking down on these ‘pill mills’ and the licensed professionals who perpetuate them.”
When John Burnham needed new batches of prescriptions written in various names, he allegedly used Stoveken as an intermediary between himself and Beecher, authorities said. Stoveken shares an office suite with Beecher, from which he runs a company that sells hearing aids.
In addition to obtaining pills from prescriptions written by Beecher and filled by various associates, John Burnham allegedly dealt directly with other bulk suppliers who funneled pills to the enterprise. John Burnham allegedly met Beecher and Stoveken at their offices, as well as other places, to conduct the illicit activity.
It is alleged he usually paid $500 to Beecher and Stoveken for a 90-pill prescription for 30 milligram oxycodone tablets.
On the distribution side of the operation, it is alleged that John Burnham used Jared Burnham and others to distribute the prescription drugs on the street. John Burnham allegedly relied on these distributors to purchase prescription drugs from the enterprise and sell the drugs within their own network of customers. In addition to selling pills using the distributors as intermediaries, John Burnham also allegedly dealt directly with certain trusted “bulk purchasers,” who allegedly included Sara.
Beyond distributing pills, Jared Burnham allegedly acted as a “patient” to fill false prescriptions. It is alleged that Marlena Burnham and the man who remains a fugitive also allegedly filled false prescriptions as “patients.” Sara allegedly was a bulk purchaser from the ring, but at times he also allegedly acted as a supplier for the ring by providing pills from other sources when the ring’s supply was short.
Authorities say that between January 2013 and October 2015, Beecher allegedly issued fraudulent prescriptions in the names of more than two dozen individuals for more than 60,000 tablets of oxycodone. He also allegedly wrote fraudulent prescriptions for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, authorities said.
The five defendants who were arrested in the past two days were lodged in the Middlesex County Jail with bails set at $100,000 (Stoveken and Sara), $75,000 (Beecher and Jared Burnham), or $20,000 (Marlena Burnham).
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.