COURTS

For stealing cancer drugs, UM pharmacy tech gets two years prison, must pay $9 million

 

Manuel Pacheco must serve two years in prison and 10 on probation, plus pay a $9 million fine.

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

For looting the University of Miami cancer center pharmacy of expensive drugs, disgraced technician Manuel Gerardo Pacheco will serve two years in prison — and must pay back a staggering $9 million.

The 55-year-old pleaded guilty Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, closing an embarrassing chapter that exposed lax security for securing drugs at UM’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In all, investigators found that at least $14 million in prescription drugs had gone missing from the cancer center’s pharmacy over three years of Pacheco’s time there. School leaders blamed a lack of inventory control, and later said “physical security and inventory controls of pharmaceuticals at Sylvester were reviewed and strengthened.”

A spokeswoman for UM’s Miller School of Medicine declined to comment Tuesday.

The investigation began in May 2011 when a UM pharmacy buyer, not trusting software that tracked the medication, noticed that hundreds of syringes of Neulasta, a drug used to boost white blood cells during cancer treatment, were missing.

UM investigators focused on Pacheco, who had recently bought a $56,000 BMW — without securing a car loan.

Later, hidden surveillance twice caught Pacheco removing blue boxes of the drug, slipping them into his lab coat. He immediately confessed, according to an investigator’s report, admitting he had been removing Neulasta four doses at a time from the pharmacy refrigerator since November 2010.

Investigators later found a stash of expensive cancer drugs, including Neulasta, Aloxi and Avastin — in all valued at $734,639.18 — in a small refrigerator in his bedroom.

Pacheco later admitting selling them to an associate, Jose Suarez, who has not been charged. Whether Suarez will face criminal charges is unknown.

Suarez would pay him $1,400 for four boxes of Neulasta, Pacheco told investigators. The university paid about $10,000 for the same amount of the medication.

An active “gray market” for expensive drugs exists in Latin America and elsewhere, investigators say.

As part of his plea deal, Pacheco agreed to the $9 million judgment against him in a civil suit filed by UM. His attorney, David S. Markus, said he believes the amount Pacheco actually stole is closer to $3 million.

Pacheco pleaded guilty to grand theft, trafficking in controlled prescription drugs and dealing in stolen property. He will also serve 10 years of probation.

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