A former Somerset County doctor pleaded guilty to supplying “tens of thousands” of prescription opioids to a drug ring that peddled high-dose pills on the streets.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced last week that Dr. George Beecher, 77, of New Providence, entered his guilty plea to second-degree charges of conspiracy and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Benjamin S. Bucca Jr..
According to officials and the investigation’s findings, Beecher allegedly wrote prescriptions for 30 mg oxycodone pills for people he never treated or met from 2013 to 2015.
“Doctors like Beecher who prescribe opioids for illegal distribution are at least as culpable as the drug dealers they supply, because they use their licenses not to heal, but to inflict incalculable harm,” Grewal said. “With so many users starting on the path to opioid addiction with prescription pain pills, we are determined to stop the doctors and pill mills supplying this deadly black market.”
Beecher was among the eight individuals who were arrested and indicted for their alleged involvement in the prescription drug ring back in 2016.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Busted Script” resulted in the arrests of Andrew Stoveken, 66, of Edison; John J. Burnham, 41, of South Plainfield; Jared Burnham, 31, of South Plainfield; George Sara, 37, of Bordentown; Marlena Burnham, 37, of Piscataway; Donn Rush, 34, of Somerset; and Jamar Mayers, 32, of Green Brook.
The other seven members of the drug ring pleaded guilty to second-degree charges of conspiracy and distribution of oxycodone.
The drug ring’s alleged mastermind, Andrew Stoveken, pleaded guilty on Aug. 21 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Stoveken be sentenced to seven years in state prison.
Stoveken ran a hearing aid company and shared an office with Beecher. The state alleges that he acted as a middleman between Beecher and the drug ring.
Under his plea agreement, Beecher will likely be sentenced to 10 years in state prison. He will also be required to permanently surrender his medical license.
Beecher is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 16.
The original charges, filed against Beecher back in 2016, included first degree strict liability for a drug induced death; second degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (oxycodone); one count of second degree distribution of oxycodone; and one count of third degree distribution of alprazolam (commonly known by brand name Xanax).
Those charges stemmed from the July 2013 overdose death of Jason Stoveken, who was round dead in a Hillsborough apartment from an “acute combined toxicity” of oxycodone and Xanax.
Beecher was found to be the doctor providing the fraudulent prescriptions that led to Jason Stoveken’s death. Beecher pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice said this latest guilty plea serves as a stark reminder to other physicians throughout the state looking to make a quick buck on the black market.
“Our Prescription Fraud Investigation Strike Team will continue to target the doctors and pharmacists who profit by illegally distributing prescription opioids,” Allende said. “With this guilty plea, we send a strong deterrent message that healthcare professionals who engage in this corrupt conduct are destined for prison, just like street-level drug dealers.”