Pa. doctor pleads guilty in drug case

August 26th, 2004

- A doctor who police say was at the center of an eastern Pennsylvania drug ring pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally prescribing hundreds of thousands of painkillers, sedatives and diet pills.

William S. Delp, 72, gave OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax and amphetamine-like diet drugs to people who visited his office, without regard to their medical histories, prosecutors have said.

Dubbed the "Candy Man" in court documents, Delp, who will be sentenced Nov. 18, could get anything from probation to 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison and $280,000 in fines.

Phillip Lauer, Delp's lawyer, told Lehigh County Judge Robert Steinberg that the doctor's age and poor health may have affected his judgment to participate in such an "egregious" offense.

Lauer suggested that Delp's liberal attitude toward painkillers, to some extent, had a sound medical basis. Some doctors, Lauer said, underprescribe painkillers to avoid scrutiny by drug enforcement agents - to the possible detriment of patients.

But Steinberg appeared skeptical, saying: "Prescribing 223,700 pills in a two-year period seems like an awful lot of medication being dispensed." Ten people were arrested in November in connection with the ring, which authorities said sold hundreds of thousands of pills in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties. Several defendants have already pleaded guilty.

Bethlehem Doc Faces Prescription Drug Charges

Nov 5, 2003

ALLENTOWN, PA (AP) A doctor illegally distributed huge quantities of painkillers, sedatives and diet pills as the central figure in an eastern Pennsylvania drug ring, state law enforcement officials said.

Dr. William Delp, 71, gave OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax and amphetamine-like diet drugs to people who visited his office, without regard to their medical histories, Attorney General Mike Fisher said in a statement.

The Bethlehem osteopath was being arraigned on the charges Wednesday, along with a pharmacist charged with billing fraud and eight others charged with selling the prescription drugs or related charges, Fisher said.

Delp allegedly spent $350,000 for 273,000 tablets of Adipex P or Phentermine, a diet pill, between January 2000 and November 2002 and also bought 65,000 tablets of the diet drug Phendimetrazine.

A state grand jury investigating the alleged fraud recommended that criminal charges be filed, Fisher said.

During the probe, agents seized $105,000 in cash and $22,000 from a checking account of Prudence Greenawalt, 45, of Palmerton, who together with Sharon Fonheiser, 45, of Palmerton, allegedly sold various drugs they obtained from Delp.

Delp and the others were being arraigned Wednesday, and the name of the defendants' lawyers were not immediately available, said Kevin Harley, Fisher's spokesman. Delp's home number in Bethlehem was not in service Wednesday and he could not be reached for comment.

Delp surrendered his medical license, which he held since 1957, and closed his office early this year after police executed a search warrant there, Harley said.

Delp allegedly wrote prescriptions for one woman for up to 800 to 1,000 OxyContin tablets a month. The recommended dose is two tablets a day. The highly addictive painkiller can cost thousands of dollars for a single prescription, Fisher said.

Pharmacist Jay Ambrose, 41, of Nazareth, who worked at a Rite Aid in Bethlehem, was charged Wednesday with one count of insurance fraud, officials said.

Others charged in the case include 47-year-old Janice Hawk, of Bethlehem, 50-year-old James Miller, of Freemansburg, and Greenawalt. Each was charged with racketeering, illegal drug possession and criminal conspiracy. Greenawalt also was charged with money laundering.

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