Indictments Allege Doctor and 7 Others Operated Ring That Illegally Distributed Tens of Thousands of Pills of Addictive Opiate Oxycodone
TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a doctor and seven other defendants were indicted today by a state grand jury on charges that they operated a drug ring that illegally distributed tens of thousands of high-dose pills of the addictive painkiller oxycodone. The doctor, who practiced in Somerset County, faces a first-degree charge of strict liability for drug-induced death in connection with the 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. The first charges Dr. George Beecher, 75, of New Providence, with strict liability for a drug induced death (1st degree), conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (oxycodone) (2nd degree), one count of distribution of oxycodone (2nd degree), and one count of distribution of alprazolam (commonly known by brand name Xanax) (3rd degree).
To supply the drug ring, Beecher allegedly wrote prescriptions without a legitimate medical purpose for tens of thousands of 30 mg oxycodone pills in the names of people he never examined, treated, or even met.
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.
The second indictment charges the following defendants with conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (oxycodone) (2nd degree) and distribution of oxycodone (2nd degree): John J. Burnham, 41, of South Plainfield, N.J., Andrew Stoveken, 66, of Edison, N.J., Jared Burnham, 31, of South Plainfield, N.J., George Sara, 37, of Bordentown, N.J., Marlena Burnham, 37, of Piscataway, N.J., Donn Rush, 34, of Somerset, N.J., and Jamar Mayers, 32, of Green Brook, N.J.
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 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.”
“In addition to targeting licensed professionals like Dr. Beecher, who allegedly broke the law and betrayed his oath as a doctor, our strike team also is charging the drug dealers who put these addictive and often deadly pills on the street,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.
“If the $20 to $30 payoff promised by each of these pills provides an incentive for these criminals, we’re providing a stronger disincentive by administering a potent dose of the law.”
Regarding the strict liability for drug-induced death charge, Dr. 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, N.J., on July 27, 2013.
The medical examiner’s report concluded that his death was accidental and caused by “acute combined toxicity” due to oxycodone and Xanax. There was no evidence of alcohol or other narcotics in his system at the time of his death. It is alleged that, 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 mg pills that Stoveken filled. Ten days before he died, Jason Stoveken refilled a prescription written for him by Beecher for 60 Xanax 2 mg 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.
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, N.J., allegedly wrote each of the fraudulent prescriptions filled by ring members.
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 mg pills in the names of over two dozen people.
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 mg 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.
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. They typically sold the 30 mg oxycodone pills for $25 per pill.
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. Sara also allegedly acted as a supplier for the ring by providing pills from other sources when the ring’s supply was short.
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, N.J. Deputy Attorney General Michael King presented the case to the state grand jury for the Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team within the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
King is a member of the Specialized Crimes Bureau assigned to the Strike Team. Detectives Kevin Gannon and Michael Rasar conducted the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice, along with Deputy Attorney General King, under the supervision of Lt. Lisa Cawley, Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue, Deputy Bureau Chief Annmarie Taggart and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Attorney General Porrino also thanked the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section for their valuable assistance in the investigation. The first-degree charge of strict liability for a drug-induced death carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, including a period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictments were handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned them to Middlesex County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a confidential, toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report suspected criminal activity, including healthcare professionals and others who are involved in illegally diverting prescription narcotics.
Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially. Defense Attorneys Dr. George Beecher: Robert Galintucci, Galintucci & Patuto John Burnham: Steven Lember, Steven C. Lember, Attorney At Law Andrew Stoveken: Steve Altman, Benedict & Altman Jared Burnham: Kyle Schwartz, Schwartz & Betzner George Sara: Charlene Cathcart, Law Office of Charlene Cathcart Marlena Burnham: Michael Rogers, McDonald & Rogers, LLC Jamar Mayers: Ayanna Kellar, Office of the Public Defender, Middlesex County Donn Rush: Louis Negron, Office of the Public Defender, Middlesex County