SOMERSET COUNTY: Doctor pleads not guilty to drug charges, overdose death of Hillsborough man

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Dr. George Beecher is accused of filing false prescriptions for opiates that were then sold on the streets.

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
A Somerset County doctor pleaded not guilty Monday to allegedly participating in an illegal drug ring and causing the overdose death of a man in Hillsborough three years ago.
The state Attorney General’s Office has alleged that from 2013 to 2015, Dr. George Beecher, 75, wrote prescriptions for drugs like Oxycodone for dozens of people he never treated, involving tens of thousands of pills later sold on the streets.
On the morning of his arraignment, the ears, nose and throat specialist used a cane to enter the Middlesex County courthouse, in New Brunswick.
Authorities raided his medical office in Warren in December, as they alleged that some of the people who received the phony prescriptions included the other individuals involved in the supposed drug ring.
Seven others have been indicted on separate charges, including the alleged ringleader, John Burnham, 41, who was in the same courtroom as Dr. Beecher and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment earlier in the morning.
Mr. Burnham’s lawyer, Steven C. Lember, a former prosecutor in Hunterdon County, had no comment afterward.
In court, deputy Attorney General Michael W. King outlined the plea bargain prosecutors made to Dr. Beecher, who was charged in a four-count indictment in August. They want him to admit to second-degree conspiracy and first-degree strict liability for the drug-induced death of 30-year-old Jason Stoveken, also the son of one of Mr. Beecher’s co-defendants, in July 2013.
Mr. Stoveken had received phony prescriptions from the doctor for oxycodone and Xanax, overdosed and was found in a Hillsborough apartment, the Attorney General’s Office said.
In return for the guilty plea, authorities would recommend that Dr. Beecher get a five-year prison term on the first offense to run concurrent to a 10-year term for the second. He also would face fines totaling $250,000 and have to cooperate with authorities against his co-defendants.
If convicted of the first-degree offense, he could get up to 20 years in state prison. He is due to turn 76 next week.
Dr. Beecher is due back in court on Monday, Dec. 5, before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Toto.