Rochester Drug Cooperative Becomes First Opioid Distributor to Face U.S. Criminal Charges

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed criminal charges against a drug distributor and two of its executives on Tuesday related to the U.S. opioid epidemic, The Washington Post reports. Rochester Drug Cooperative, its former operations manager, and its former chief executive were reportedly charged with three crimes—including “conspiracy to distribute controlled narcotics for nonmedical reasons.” The men reportedly face up to life in prison for the charges. Ex-operations manager William Pietruszewski agreed to plead guilty, and the company agreed to pay a $20 million fine. The ex-chief executive, Laurence Doud, made a court appearance Tuesday afternoon and is now in DEA custody. A spokesman for Rochester Drug Cooperative said the company had “made mistakes” under “former management” and understood it had “serious consequences.” An attorney for Pietruszewski did not return the Post’s request for comment. Doud’s lawyer reportedly could not be located.

The charges mark the first time the U.S. has filed criminal charges against an opioid distributor. In years past, the Drug Enforcement Administration only made pharmaceutical companies pay fines for opioid distribution.