July 19, 2018

New charges in New England Compounding Center case

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The former home of New England Compounding Center on Waverly Street in Framingham.

Six years after a nationwide fungal meningitis case traced to Framingham's New England Compounding Center, new charges have been filed against a man who allegedly made false statements to federal agents in the case.

Claudio Pontoriero, 40, of Everett, was charged with making false statements, the office of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announced Wednesday.

Pontoriero was a pharmacy technician in Boston when he received $5,000 per month from New England Compounding Center and Ameridose, a drug repackaging company then based in Westborough, according to prosecutors. Pontoriero then told investigators that the monthly payments were for consulting services, not for his influence in selecting the two companies for purchasing drugs.

Pontoriero allegedly made $355,000 from the businesses in total.

The New England Compounding Center case has stretched on years after it made headlines in 2012. A total of 64 patients in nine states died, and 753 patients in 20 states were diagnosed with a fungal infection after receiving a drug from the center called MPA, or methylprednisolone acetate.

The outbreak was the largest public health crisis ever caused by a pharmaceutical product, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Massachusetts.

In 2014, 14 people were indicted in connection with the case. Major players have already been convicted, including Barry Cadden, the owner and head pharmacist, who was sentenced in June 2017 to to 108 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Cadden was found to have authorized the shipping of drugs before test results confirming their sterility were returned, never notified customers of non-sterile results, and compounded drugs with expired ingredients. Certain batches of drugs were also manufactured, in part, by an unlicensed pharmacy technician at New England Compounding Center.

The former supervisory pharmacist, Glenn Chin, was sentenced in January to eight years in prison and two years of supervised release. He was convicted by a federal jury in Boston of 77 counts, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.

Carla Conigliaro, the majority shareholder of New England Compounding Center, and Doug Conigliaro, her husband and a former Ameridose executive, both pleaded guilty in 2016 to withdrawing cash from their bank accounts in an attempt to circumvent financial reporting requirements. Robert Ronzio, the national sales director for the center, pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiring to defraud the FDA. Ronzio is cooperating with the government and is expected to testify at the trials of the other defendants, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Massachusetts has said.

Nine other suspects are scheduled for trial in the case this October.

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