Pharmacist’s plan to fake his own store’s robbery goes awry; pharmacy in blackmail bomb threat; pharmacists pack heat for protection
Ottawa, Canada: A pharmacist has been found guilty of trafficking fentanyl, public mischief for reporting a false crime and insurance fraud after he faked a robbery at his own pharmacy.
Waseem Shaheen had also been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, but as the conspiracy concerned a robbery which did not actually happen, he was acquitted on this charge.
In 2014 Mr Shaheen’s employees began to notice that the pharmacy was ordering more fentanyl than its prescription volume required, and that over half the 6,705 patches ordered over 2013 and 2014 were not accounted for. An employee warned the Ontario College of Pharmacists about the missing fentanyl.
Aware that the patches needed to be accounted for, Mr Shaheen then told police that his I.D.A. pharmacy had been robbed by a knife-wielding criminal who took over CAD$25,000 (AUD$25,869) worth of patches – but according to the Ottawa Citizen, he was then unable to describe the robber or getaway car.
Instead, he showed the police CCTV footage which prosecutors later alleged showed a fake robbery orchestrated by Mr Shaheen and featuring another man – Mehdi Rostaee – whose name, it later transpired, appeared on false prescriptions for more than 1,500 fentanyl patches, which had been filled out by Mr Shaheen.
Mr Shaheen told the Court that he had told Mr Rostaee not to go ahead with the plan, and that he was not a good record-keeper, which accounted for the missing patches. Ontario Court Justice Robert Wadden described this as a “self-serving web of lies”.
Mr Shaheen has not yet been sentenced, and is now also expected to face disciplinary action from the Ontario College of Pharmacists.
Potsdam, Germany: A bomb was delivered to a pharmacy in Potsdam, near Berlin, over the weekend, prompting the evacuation of a popular Christmas market.
A pharmacist opened the package and found a canister with wires, and heard a “whistling” sound when it was opened, authorities say.
According to news.com.au, police feared that the package, which contained wires, nails, powder, electronics and explosives, might have been a terrorist bomb.
The evacuation came almost a year after a terrorist attack on the Berlin Christmas markets.
However, German authorities were later able to confirm that the bomb was sent to the pharmacy not as an attempt at terrorism, but blackmail.
The pharmacy was not the intended victim: according to Yahoo, the target was the delivery service DHL.
Brandenburg interior minister Karl-Heinz Schroeter said that the blackmailers demanded several million euros from DHL and threatened to send other bombs over the Christmas period if they were not satisfied.
The parcel was destroyed.
Winslow, New Jersey: Two men who robbed the Professional Center Pharmacy in New Jersey (pictured) got more than they bargained for after they entered the pharmacy and held an employee at gunpoint.
Another employee – who according to NJ.com was working in the pharmacy but was not a security guard – whipped out a gun and exchanged fire.
The men fled and sped away in a car with what Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and Winslow Township Police Department are describing as an “undisclosed” amount of money.
NJ.com reports that pharmacists in the US are increasingly making the decision to carry guns in the hope that they can protect themselves from criminals looking for opioids.
“In fact, a similar situation transpired five years ago in the same township,” the site reports.
UK: A draft legal defence for pharmacists who make dispensing errors “does not go far enough” according to one British MP, Chemist + Druggist reports.
Labour MP Julie Cooper said during a debate in Parliament on the draft laws that under the legislation, pharmacists would not be on a level playing field.
The pharmacy minister should “consider further legislation to ensure that inadvertent errors are totally decriminalised,” she said.
Under the new laws, pharmacists would only face charges if there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that they had misused their professional skills for an improper purpose, or showed a deliberate disregard for patient safety.
But Ms Coopers says pharmacists and staff “will still face prosecution under other provisions of the Medicines Act 1968”.
She also pointed out that while an increase in error reports could be expected after the legislative changes are made, this is still reliant on goodwill, with no formal requirement to report.