Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Two NECC Defendants Cleared of Charges
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A federal judge has dismissed the charges against two of the pharmacists indicted in the investigation of the Massachusetts drug compounding firm blamed for a deadly nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak.
In a 12-page ruling U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns concluded that the two former NECC employees did not intend to defraud the federal government when they simply matched up drugs produced by NECC with a list of supposed patients.
Cleared of the charges were Kathy S. Chin of Canton, Mass. and Michelle Thomas of Framingham, Mass. Both were licensed pharmacists. Chin is the wife of Glenn Chin who is facing 25 counts of second degree murder stemming from the same indictment.
Glenn Chin and Barry Cadden, who faces the same second degree murder charges, are scheduled to go on trial in Stearns' courtroom on Jan. 5.
In his ruling, Stearns noted that the indictment charges that Kathy Chin and Thomas were matching up patients with two drugs, neither of which was a controlled substance. Prosecutors contended the two should have realized that the prescriptions they were working from were invalid and contained the names of fictional patients.
But, Stearns continued, the tasks the two were performing, matching up the drugs with patients' names did not meet the definition of "dispensing."
"Would a reasonable person, even a reasonable pharmacist, understand that by matching up orders to packages prior to their being shipped, she was criminally liable for participation in the filling of a prescription that she had never approved and, as a result, she was guilty of dispensing the prescribed drug with the intent to defraud. The answer as best I can determine is that she would not," Stearns wrote.
Kathy Chin had been charged under four counts and Thomas under two. All six were dismissed.
The two were among 14 indicted in late 2014 following a two year federal probe of the outbreak which sickened 778 patients, killing 77 of them.
Two other defendants, Douglas and Carla Conigliaro, recently entered guilty pleas to vastly reduced charges and are scheduled for sentencing in November.
Trial for the remaining eight are scheduled for next Spring.