NEW YORK (AP) — A pharmacist who oversaw a major hospital's vault of drugs stole nearly 200,000 powerful painkillers he was supposed to safeguard and dispense, narcotics prosecutors said Tuesday as they unveiled a case that makes unusual use of a state drug-kingpin law.
For more than five years before his firing this spring, Anthony D'Alessandro exploited his access to the drug supply of what is now Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital to grab oxycodone and other pills by the hundreds and then fudged records to cover his tracks, city Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan's office said. Prosecutors are still investigating what became of the drugs but believe the medications ended up on the thriving black market for prescription narcotics, where the more than 193,000 missing pills could fetch a total of about $5.6 million.
The case is one of the most striking examples of a pharmacist being accused of becoming a drug thief, and it could be the first such use of a top-level New York drug trafficking law typically used against street dealers. It "underscores the vigilance required when addictive medication with a high resale value is readily available — even to licensed professionals and trusted employees," Brennan said.
While prosecutors paint D'Alessandro as a drug lord with a professional license, his lawyer said D'Alessandro was just a druggist with a problem.
"I was taking this drug for my own use," to feed an addiction and treat ankle pain, D'Alessandro told a hospital investigator in an April 11 statement prosecutors filed in court. He disputes taking the quantity of pills he's charged with diverting, attorney Joseph V. Sorrentino said, calling the trafficking charge "totally inappropriate."
Prosecutors noted that D'Alessandro came out clean when drug-tested April 11, and they said the sheer size of the alleged theft belied his claim of taking the pills himself.
If he had, "we'd be at his funeral, instead of his arraignment," prosecutor Ryan Sakacz told a judge as D'Alessandro entered a not-guilty plea.
D'Alessandro grabbed oxycodone and other drugs on nearly 220 different dates, even signing out 1,500 pills the day after hospital officials first approached him April 1 about the disappearing drugs, prosecutors said.
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