Vero Beach Doctor Indicted For Manufacturing Counterfeit Pills That Killed At Least One

Counterfeit Oxycodone Tablets Containing Fentanyl. Source: DEA

A press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detailed a case against a Vero Beach, Florida orthopedic surgeon Johnny C. Benjamin, Jr. He is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance which resulted in death, aiding and abetting the distribution of a controlled substance which resulted in death, and attempted possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. These charges were brought about after the accidental death of a young woman in Wellington, FL after she was sold counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl that Benjamin had made. In a recorded conversation, he referred to her death as just another “page in a large stack.”

According to the Criminal Complaint filed in federal court, the police worked back from the person who had sold the woman the pills to Benjamin, who is alleged to have manufactured the counterfeit pills himself with supplies and equipment purchased over the internet. A recorded telephone conversation captured Benjamin saying he could move a large quantity of the counterfeit pills in New York City and Philadelphia where he felt no one could trace the pills back to him. On October 6, 2017, he tried to board a plane to Philadelphia with 2,000 of the counterfeit pills in his bags. When TSA stopped Benjamin, he claimed the pills were to treat cancer. TSA informed him that he would need a prescription to travel with that many pills and seized them.

When picked up by the police on October 12, Benjamin feigned innocence, claiming that a local pharmacy pressed the pills for him and had never seen what an OxyContin looked like, despite having prescribed that same medication to some of his patients. Dr. Benjamin faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment to a maximum life term of imprisonment. This case came about because of the combined efforts of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, and Orlando Melbourne Airport Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney John McMillian is the prosecutor for this case.