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2 indicted for sales of prescription drugs

The Baltimore Sun

Two Maryland men have been indicted in federal court for illegally selling prescription drugs over the Internet and several other charges related to dispensing 10 million painkillers from their Baltimore pharmacy over two years - leading to overdose deaths of two customers, according to federal prosecutors.

Pharmacists Steven Abiodun Sodipo, 51, of Forest Hill and Callixtus Onigbo Nwaehiri, 48, of Jarrettsville were indicted Friday on charges of illegally selling 9,936,075 pills of hydrocodone over the Internet, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and in monetary transactions using illegal proceeds, and tax charges, according to Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein's office.

Last year, the men were indicted on similar charges, but Friday's indictment was the result of a continuing probe.

"This ongoing investigation sends an instant message to 'cybercriminals' that the Internet is not their safe house," Carl J. Kotowski, a Drug Enforcement Administration official in Baltimore, said in a statement.

Ahmed Alhaji Abdulrazaaq, 49, of Forest Hill was also charged with conspiracy to defraud the IRS.

According to the 15-count indictment, Sodipo and Nwaehiri owned and operated Newcare Pharmacy in the 3400 block of Sinclair Lane. In 2004, they began to participate in a nationwide conspiracy to illegally sell hydrocodone, an addictive painkiller, to any customer with a valid credit card - even to those they knew were addicts.

In 2005, Newcare purchased 4.2 million hydrocodone doses when the national average was 84,332 units per pharmacy. From Jan. 1 to Oct. 10, 2006, it purchased 6.1 million doses, when the average was 71,632.

The indictment alleges that two of Newcare's customers died as a result of overdoses that included hydrocodone obtained through the illegal operation.

Rosenstein's office is seeking the forfeiture of $20 million, the amount of gross proceeds derived from the sale of the hydrocodone, and is seeking to seize the pharmacy's office.

If convicted, Sodipo and Nwaehiri could receive sentences ranging between five years and life in prison for the charges.

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