NEW YORK (Reuters) - The owner of two now-defunct New York City pharmacies was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday for engaging in what authorities have called one of the largest opioid painkiller diversion schemes ever uncovered in the city.
Lilian Jakacki, the pharmacies’ owner, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan, who cited the nation’s growing opioid drug epidemic as one factor he considered in imposing the prison term.
“It was a crime carried on for too long at too high of a level,” Rakoff said.
Prosecutors said Jakacki, 50, and her husband, Marcin, illegally distributed more than 500,000 oxycodone pills. The heavily-regulated painkiller has enormous cash value to drug dealers and is abused by over 13 million Americans annually.
Marcin Jakacki pleaded guilty in July in connection with the case. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday.
The couple ran the scheme out of two pharmacies in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens called Chopin Chemists, from 2010 to 2015, and illegally distributed pills with a street value of $10 million to $15 million, prosecutors said.
During the scheme, Jakacki’s small Brooklyn pharmacy from 2010 to 2012 became the leading purchaser of oxycodone tablets in its zip code, which included two national chain stores, prosecutors said.
A 2013 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration audit of the pharmacies found that hundreds of thousands of oxycodone tablets were dispensed without prescriptions, prosecutors said.
Tens of thousands more were distributed based on fraudulent prescriptions, some of which were made out to the names of luxury brands like “Chanel” or “Coach,” prosecutors said.
Jakacki, a licensed pharmacist, laundered the proceeds through the purchase of a $2 million home in Greenwich, Connecticut, prosecutors said. She also used her business to defraud Medicare out of more than $500,000 through an overbilling scheme, they said.
Jakacki pleaded guilty in July to charges including conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In court on Tuesday, she apologized for her actions, saying she realized she made a “terrible mistake” that may have resulted in her customers being hurt by distributing oxycodone pills without prescriptions.
“I became part of the problem,” she said.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler