Federal Court Orders Tampa Pharmacy to Close in Case Alleging Unlawful Opioid Distribution
MIAMI - A federal court in Florida ordered a Tampa-area pharmacy shut down and prohibited two of its employees from ever owning, managing or operating any business where controlled substances are dispensed.
Pursuant to an agreed consent judgment and permanent injunction filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the court enjoined WeCare Pharmacy, its pharmacist owner Qingping Zhang, pharmacy technician Li Yang and a related corporate entity, L&Y Holdings LLC, from ever owning, managing or operating any business where controlled substances are dispensed. The order also requires the permanent closure and dissolution of WeCare Pharmacy.
The consent decree resolves a civil complaint the government filed earlier this year alleging that the defendants repeatedly dispensed opioids in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The complaint alleged that over a period of several years, the defendants dispensed highly addictive and highly abused prescription opioids while ignoring “red flags” — that is, obvious indications of drug diversion and drug-seeking behavior. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven, who entered the order, previously granted the government’s request for a temporary restraining order shortly after the case was filed.
“Pharmacists and those who own and operate pharmacies have a duty to ensure that controlled substances are distributed lawfully,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with its partners to ensure that business owners and medical professionals handling controlled substances do not violate the Controlled Substances Act.”
“Failure to comply with professional standards and protocols while dispensing controlled substances places the public at risk of harm and is a violation of the law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Karin Hoppmann for the Middle District of Florida. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to enforce the law against those engaged in harmful practices, to keep our citizens safe.”
“Pharmacies have an obligation to ensure controlled substances are dispensed in accordance with the law," said Acting Special Agent in Charge La Verne Hibbert of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Field Division. “When they ignore that obligation, it contributes to the widespread misuse and abuse of prescription opioids that devastate our communities. The DEA Miami Field Division remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure the health and the safety of our communities.”
The investigation was conducted by the DEA Tampa District Office.
The case was handled by the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.