Anthony D’Alessandro, a former hospital pharmacist at Beth Israel Medical Center, hardly looks like a hardened drug kingpin, but that is precisely what the New York’s narcotics have accused him of being. Their investigation yielded findings that implicated Mr. D’Allesandro in the theft of more than 193,000 pills of oxycodone over his 14 years at the hospital leading to his arrest. At his arraignment he admitted to stealing the drugs but only to feed an addiction, and denied being anything resembling a “kingpin.” The prosecution meanwhile claimed that he was moonlighting as a drug trafficker, using his position and authority to gain access to the valuable drugs and then changing hospital records to cover his tracks.
Despite their accusations, prosecutors have yet to identify where those more than 100,000 pills went. They have speculated D’Allesandro sold them onto the extremely lucrative prescription drug black market, where he could have easily made off with over $5 million dollars. Mr. D’Allesandro tells a different story; He claims that far from being a “kingpin,” he was an addict whose addiction drove him to steal from the hospital. “I was taking this drug for my own use,” he told the court, adding that although he originally took it to treat pain in his ankle, he slowly became addicted.
The size of the theft and a negative drug screen result from 2011 are strong evidence that he was not as addicted as Mr. D’Allesandro claims according to prosecutors. Had he truly been an addict and taken that many drugs, “we’d be at his funeral,” instead of in court. Despite the claims and evidence against him, Mr. D’Allessandro plead ‘Not Guilty’ to the charge of drug trafficking under the “Kingpin” provision of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which carries a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life.
Whether Mr. D’Allessendro is a “Kingpin” or simply an accidental addict is up to the prosecution, whose investigations so far have been unable to locate the whereabouts of the missing drugs. They suspect they ended up on the lucrative and widespread prescription drug black-market, an underground economy that is estimated to be worth around $9 billion nationwide. Tracking the pills down may prove impossible, especially since the alleged Kingpin was able to hide his tracks so well.
It is also just as likely that the Mr. D’Allesandro really was an addict and that he stole the medication in order to feed his addiction. According to studies numerous studies performed on the subject, Pharmacists are just as likely as the general population to develop substance abuse problems. Those same studies also noted that their preferred drugs were opioids such as oxycodone. So far from being a Pharmacist version of Walter White, Mr. D’Allesendro might simply be nothing more than an unfortunate soul who became addicted to a drug whose “addiction potential,” according to one source is, “comparable to that of morphine.”
As of right now it is far too early predict the outcome of this case. Unless the prosecution can locate some of the 193,000 pills which Mr. D’Allesandro has admitted to stealing and is alleged to have sold, then their case seems far less likely to put this alleged “King Pin” behind bars. If they can not then, their investigation and arrest will have been totally in vain. However, if the pharmacist did indeed sell the pills that he alleged stole, sheer probability predicts that at least some evidence of the transactions which the prosecution requires for a conviction should exist. He did allegedly steal over 100,000 pills from the hospital after all, and if he was selling them then, it is just a matter of time, if those transactions did indeed take place as the prosecution alleges.
By Andrew Waddell