A federal jury in Manhattan on Wednesday decided that former Rochester Drug Cooperative Chief Executive Officer Laurence Doud III helped fuel the opioid epidemic during his leadership of the locally-based pharmaceutical distributor.
Doud, 78, was convicted of conspiring to illegally distribute dangerous opioids, like fentanyl and oxycodone, and also of a conspiracy to defraud the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA.
The jury’s verdict marked a historic milestone in the government’s attempts to curb opioid abuse: Doud is the first pharmaceutical distributor to be accused and subsequently convicted of narcotics trafficking.
Similarly, Rochester Drug Cooperative, a wholesale distributor, also earlier admitted to drug trafficking. Rochester Drug Cooperative, or RDC, has since shut down and declared bankruptcy.
“In a first of its kind prosecution, Laurence Doud was held responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic in the country by conspiring with others in his company to ship massive amounts of dangerous and highly-addictive oxycodone and fentanyl to pharmacies that he knew were illegally dispensing those controlled substances to drug dealers and addicts,” Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
Prosecutors alleged that Doud and RDC ignored clear warning signs that pharmacies were recklessly pushing opioids onto the streets with few safeguards and little concerns for the deadly hazards. RDC continued to ship opioids to the pharmacies, with Doud driving his subordinates to ignore obvious “red flags” from the pharmacies.
Former RDC compliance officer William Pietruszewski pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances and testified against Doud. He testified that Doud would increase the amount of opioids to be distributed to questionable pharmacies when those pharmacies reached previously established thresholds, according to reporting from Nina Pullano of Courthouse News, who covered the trial.
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Doud’s lawyers argued that there was no conspiracy. Courthouse News reported that after the verdict Wednesday Robert Gottlieb, one of Doud’s attorneys, said, “This verdict is a monumental travesty of justice. This battle has just begun. Ultimately, Mr. Doud will prevail, justice will be done, and this conviction will be overturned.”
Between 2012 and early 2017, Doud brushed aside warnings from RDC officials of dangerously voluminous opioid sales, even forcing the shipment of opioids to pharmacies that were known to be under DEA investigation. Doud also pushed hard to add new pharmacies to RDC’s customer base without adequate checks of the reliability of the operations, prosecutors said.
In the decade before the 2019 criminal charges, RDC’s business, driven by its opioid sales, became the sixth largest distributor of pharmaceuticals and health care products in the country.
Scheduled to be sentenced in June, Doud faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. He now lives in New Smyrna, Florida.
Contact Gary Craig at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at gcraig1.