Trial of former Rochester Drug Cooperative CEO Laurence Doud III to begin Tuesday
In a landmark criminal case, former Rochester Drug Cooperative chief executive Laurence Doud III is due to stand trial this week over allegations that he and his company were major players in a deadly opioid pipeline.
A wholesale distributor, Rochester Drug Cooperative, or RDC, sat in the middle of the opioid pipeline, shipping drugs to pharmacies. Evidence shows that RDC moved tens of millions of dangerous opioids – including fentanyl and oxycodone pills – while ignoring growing evidence of the company’s role in fueling the national opioid crisis.
Doud personally dismissed clear signs that some pharmacies were flooding the streets with opioids, and he pushed for continued business with pharmacies under the Drug Enforcement Administration’s control, prosecutors say.
As RDC became one of the largest wholesale distributors of controlled substances in the country, Doud personally benefited from contracts related to this highly explosive expansion, records show.
In April 2019, federal prosecutors brought felony charges against the company, Doud, and another executive — the first time a distributor has been charged with crimes related to the outbreak. The company, which has since gone bankrupt, reached a settlement with prosecutors, while the other DRC official, former compliance officer William Pietruszewski, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances .
Pietruszewski is expected to testify against Doud.
Doud’s trial is set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 18, in federal court in Manhattan and is expected to last up to three weeks. A jury was selected on Wednesday.
Doud’s attorneys declined to comment ahead of trial. They argued that Doud was the scapegoat for the failure of others in the DRC who failed to intervene when opioid sales spiked suspiciously.
“Mr. Doud is the victim of a set-up,” lawyer Robert Gottlieb said earlier. “In this case, the government just got it wrong.”
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Doud was fired from the company in 2017 as the DEA intensified an investigation into DRC opioid shipments. He sued RDC, and company officials responded with similar charges against Doud, as prosecutors are now doing.
DRC officials alleged in court documents that “Doud urged DRC compliance personnel and others to disregard DRC policies and procedures regarding the sale of controlled substances.”
Michael Paulsen, who owned a Staten Island pharmacy and admitted to illegally distributing oxycodone, is expected to be one of the witnesses against Doud, according to court records.
Paulsen was not a licensed pharmacist, but used his job to distribute tens of thousands of oxycodone tablets, authorities said. RDC was a major distributor for the operation, Regal Remedies.
Paulsen will testify “that he ran a pill mill,” federal prosecutors said in a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors want to show jury photo of pharmacist sleeping in Regal; they allege that Paulsen hired the pharmacist, but the individual did little work and often slept on the job.
The family lawsuit against RDC continues
RDC has faced multiple lawsuits since the criminal charges and successfully obtained bankruptcy protection to sell its properties and help pay off its debts. However, Rochester-based bankruptcy judge Paul Warren allowed the lawsuit to continue, outside the limits of bankruptcy protection. This lawsuit comes from the family of Sarah Fuller, a New Jersey woman who died of an opioid overdose.
Fuller died in 2016 from an overdose of Subsys, a prescription fentanyl spray originally intended for cancer patients suffering from pain and believed to be 100 times more potent than morphine. She had suffered injuries after two car accidents and was seeking pain relief.
The makers of Subsys bribed doctors to dispense the opioid when not medically necessary, and Fuller’s family maintains that RDC was a distributor for the pharmacy that supplied Fuller with the lethal doses. The family’s lawyers believe the Doud trial will reveal that RDC failed to question the pharmacy’s suspicious Subsys claims.
RDC’s attorneys are seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that Fuller’s attorneys failed to establish distinctive links between RDC and the deadly Subsys.
RDC “could have stopped him,” said Richard Hollawell, a New Jersey attorney for the Fuller family, of Fuller’s death. “They knew these orders were not legitimate orders for legitimate medical purposes.
“They’re a very big player in what happened to Sarah Fuller. They could have reported the pharmacy to the DEA…and the whole scheme could have been over before Sarah got the Subsys.”