December 13, 2018

Five found guilty in New England Compounding Center case

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The former home of New England Compounding Center on Waverly Street in Framingham.

Five people involved in the New England Compounding Center fungal meningitis outbreak that killed more than 100 people were found guilty Thursday for their roles in the case.

A federal jury found an owner and four former employees of the Framingham facility guilty following an eight-week trial. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said the defendants "acted recklessly to the extreme detriment of public health."

"Over the course of years, the defendants callously disregarded patient health by cutting corners and prioritizing profits over safety," Lelling said in a statement following the convictions. The contaminated drugs never should have been made or distributed, he added.

Greg Conigliaro of Southborough, a former NECC owner, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States and faces up to five years in prison.

Two pharmacists face up to 20 years in prison for their roles.

Those former employees include Gene Svirskiy of Ashland and Christopher Leary of Shrewsbury. Svikskiy, who worked in NECC's clean room and supervised the center's production of high-risk heart medications, was convicted of racketeering, mail fraud and introducing adulterated drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead. Leary was convicted of mail fraud, introducing adulterated drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, and introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

Svirskiy and Leary were found to have made and sold a joint pain treatment drug called methylprednisolone acetate, or MPA, along with other drugs, in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Their actions included using expired ingredients, mislabeling drugs and not waiting for test results to come in before delivering drugs to customers.

Two others were also convicted Thursday: Sharon Carter of Hopkinton, the center's former director of operations, and Alla Stepanets of Framingham. Carter was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and faces up to five years in prison. Stepanets, one of the center's verification pharmacists, was convicted of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. She faces up to one year in prison.

Thursday's ruling brings the latest guilty findings in a case that attracted national news as people in 20 states across the country were diagnosed with fungal infections after receiving injections of drugs manufactured at NECC. The U.S. Attorney's Office said that nearly 900 patients have been harmed by those drugs and more than 100 killed.

A clean room pharmacist, Joseph Evanosky of Westford, was acquitted Thursday. So far, 11 former owners and others at NECC have been convicted.

Among those already charged is NECC's former owner and head pharmacist, Barry Cadden. Cadden was convicted of fraud and racketeering, but was found not guilty of murder. He was sentenced last year to nine years in prison.

Cadden, of Wrentham, directed and authorized the shipments of MPA, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He authorized the shipment nationwide before test results were returned that could confirm that the drugs were sterile, and the compounding center never notified customers that the drug was found to not be sterile, prosecutors said.

Another sentencing took place earlier this year. In January, Glenn Chin of Canton, NECC's former supervisory pharmacist, was sentenced to eight years in prison. Chin was convicted of 77 counts, including charges of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Chin manufactured three lots of the contaminated drugs, compromising 17,000 vials of medication. He was acquitted of murder charges.

Other guilty pleas have come in this year, including Scott Connolly of East Greenwich, R.I., who pleaded guilty in August to nine counts of mail fraud. For more than two years, Connolly produced thousands of cardioplegia solutions that were sent to customers throughout the country. In July, another pharmacy technician, Claudio Pontoriero of Everett, was charged with making false statements to investigators. Pontoriero allegedly made $355,000 from New England Compounding Center and Ameridose, a drug repackaging company then based in Westborough, by selecting the companies in drug purchasing.

Carla Conigliaro, the majority shareholder of New England Compounding Center, and Doug Conigliaro, her husband and a former Ameridose executive, both pleaded guilty in 2016 to withdrawing cash from their bank accounts in an attempt to circumvent financial reporting requirements. Robert Ronzio, the national sales director for the center, pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiring to defraud the FDA.

Other trials are still to come. Two remaining defendants, Kathy Chin and Michelle Thomas, both former verification pharmacists, are facing trial starting next March.

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