Three men — a businessman, a technology professional, and a physician — were recently put on trial in northern California for allegedly distributing prescription drugs illegally through an online pharmacy. Defense attorneys are aggressively challenging federal prosecutors’ legal theory being used against online pharmacies before federal law was passed in 2008 that outlawed them. Attorneys for the defendants are also asserting an advice of counsel defense, claiming that their clients fully believed they were operating a legitimate business, and were lawfully prescribing and distributing government-approved pharmaceuticals, based on the legal guidance of their business attorneys at the time.
Safescripts Online was launched by the three defendants in 2004, and operated through 2006. Christopher Napoli, Daniel Johnson, and Joseph Carozza are each charged with distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose during the period of Safescripts’ operation. Defense attorneys said federal law at the time did not require physicians to perform an in-person evaluation before writing a prescription. By the time a federal law was passed in 2008 requiring direct face-to-face consultation before prescribing medication, Safescripts was out of business.
Law.com reports that Napoli and Johnson were also charged with “one count of money laundering for contracting with an overseas company to provide credit card processing.”
The main drug sold by Safescripts was phentermine, a prescription diet drug classified as having “a low potential for abuse.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirstin Ault acknowledged that none of the pharmaceuticals sold by Safescripts were highly addictive narcotics like heroin or cocaine, but she added, “they sure weren’t selling things like blood pressure medication or allergy pills.”
“They were not a bunch of drug dealers. They were legitimate businesspeople,” said Christopher Cannon, defense attorney for Safescripts owner Christopher Napoli.
According to the Law.com report, “to convict the Safescripts defendants, prosecutors must convince jurors the men acted in bad faith and knew what they were doing was outside the course of usual medical practice.”
If you are in need of criminal defense lawyer in California, please contact the Fresno based law firm of Hammerschmidt Broughton Law Corporation. Our attorneys can be reached at (559) 772-4614. We are also on the Web at www.hbcriminaldefense.com.