Tampa pharmacist convicted in pill mill case

Published Nov. 19, 2012

TAMPA — A federal jury has convicted three people, including a Tampa pharmacist, of crimes related to a multi-state drug conspiracy that sent millions of dollars worth of addictive prescription painkillers to all 50 states, according to a U.S. attorney.

Pharmacist Vinesh Darji of Tampa was among a trio of professionals convicted in Ohio last week on conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, according to a statement from Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio.

Darji, 42, was convicted on an additional nine counts of unlawful dispensing of hydrocodone, according to Dettelbach.

Darji holds two active state licenses, one for pharmacist and one for pharmacist consultant, according to Florida Department of Health records.

The other two convicted defendants are Dr. Terence Sasaki, 41, of New Jersey, and Audrey Barbara Rovedo, 64, a manager at Delta Health from Jacksonville, according to the statement.

The three guilty verdicts make a total of 13 people convicted for their roles in the conspiracy, including doctors, pharmacists, a call-center manager and others.

The cases stem from the guilty plea last year of a 42-year-old Georgia man named James Hazelwood, who authorities say operated a company that illegally distributed millions of pills of prescription painkillers, including hydrocodone and alprazolam, to drug users who had no medical reason for the pills.

Hazelwood worked with pharmacists who supplied drugs to his organization, which he then distributed to people who contacted him through his companies' websites or call centers, according to court documents.