U.S. v. Lawson, No. 81-5103

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BUTZNER, RUSSELL and HALL; K. K. HALL
Citation682 F.2d 480
Docket NumberNo. 81-5103
Decision Date24 June 1982
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Alfred M. LAWSON, Appellant.

Page 480

682 F.2d 480
UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,
v.
Alfred M. LAWSON, Appellant.
No. 81-5103.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.
Argued April 2, 1982.
Decided June 24, 1982.

Martha F. Rasin, Annapolis, Md. (Bruce C. Bereano, Annapolis, Md., on brief), for appellant.

Robert N. McDonald, Asst. U. S. Atty., Baltimore, Md. (J. Frederick Motz, U. S. Atty., David B. Irwin, Asst. U. S. Atty., Baltimore, Md., on brief), for appellee.

Before BUTZNER, RUSSELL and HALL, Circuit Judges.

K. K. HALL, Circuit Judge:

Lawson, a registered pharmacist, was convicted on nineteen counts of violating

Page 481

the federal narcotics laws, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846, including one count of conspiracy to distribute Schedule II substances and eighteen counts of distribution of Schedule II drugs on the basis of prescriptions which he knew were not issued for a legitimate medical purpose. He appeals, alleging that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on the distribution counts or to connect the various distribution charges into a single conspiracy. A review of the evidence reveals that there is no merit to this appeal and accordingly, we affirm.

I.

In 1976, Ronald Smith, an obese man, began an illicit prescription arrangement with Dr. Possinger, a Philadelphia osteopath who ran a "diet clinic." Possinger would make records for fictitious patients and sell their "prescriptions" to Smith. The prescriptions were for preludin, a stimulant used for weight control, and tuinal, a sedative hypnotic also used in diet programs to counteract the effects of preludin. 1 All the prescriptions were alike, and Possinger would sell Smith as many as fifteen per day for $10-15 a piece. Smith's only chore was to find a pharmacist to fill the prescriptions.

Lawson was part owner of two pharmacies, one in Ocean City, Maryland, a resort community a few hours from Philadelphia, and the other in Hyattsville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D. C. Lawson himself worked full time at the Ocean City pharmacy, filling in one weekend a month for Thomas Lane, the manager of the Hyattsville store.

Late in 1976, Smith started presenting his bogus prescriptions at Lawson's Ocean City pharmacy. At first, Lawson called Dr. Possinger a few times to verify them. On a couple of occasions, Lawson took the additional precaution of contacting the federal drug task force in Philadelphia to see if Possinger himself was legitimate. The drug enforcement agents told Lawson that Possinger had a poor reputation and Lawson should be guided by his conscience in deciding whether or not to fill the prescriptions. 2

Lawson decided to fill the orders. Because the pharmacy did not stock these drugs in quantity, Lawson would order large amounts from wholesalers and fill the prescriptions when the drugs arrived; Smith would return to pick them up.

The volume of drugs Lawson was ordering prompted the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate. 3 When the investigators were questioning Lawson, he indicated that all of Possinger's patients were coming to Ocean City to get their diet pills; he said nothing about Possinger's "diet clinic" or Smith. He also maintained at that time that he had called Possinger to verify every new patient, although in fact his telephone records reflected only four calls to Philadelphia.

In all, over a five-month period, Smith brought 495 preludin prescriptions and 250 tuinal prescriptions to the Ocean City pharmacy. After receiving two grand jury subpoenas for Possinger's prescriptions, Lawson stopped filling them.

In late 1977, Smith reappeared, this time at the Hyattsville pharmacy with prescriptions for dilaudid, a Schedule II controlled drug used for severe pain. These prescriptions were from Dr. Nickerson, a Washington, D. C., physician, issued to various fictitious patients. Because Lawson was at the Hyattsville pharmacy only once a

Page 482

month, Lane, the pharmacist and manager of the Hyattsville store, filled the majority of these prescriptions. However, Lawson filled a number of the dilaudid prescriptions at the Ocean City pharmacy.

As before, Smith would drop off the prescriptions, the dilaudid would be ordered from the wholesaler, frequently by Lawson, and Smith would return to pick up the drugs when they arrived. There was often a substantial time lapse before the prescriptions could be filled.

On one occasion, Lawson was in the Hyattsville store when Smith came in and they greeted each other. Smith left without presenting any prescriptions or picking up any drugs and Lawson did not caution Lane or the other pharmacists about him. On another occasion, Lawson came into the Hyattsville store and handed Lane a bulging envelope like the ones he normally delivered prescriptions in, saying he had had a visit from "Ron."

Smith was able to have his dilaudid prescriptions filled at the Hyattsville pharmacy through February of 1979, when the police closed in. In June, 1980, Lawson, Lane, and Smith were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute Schedule II substances and twenty-one counts of distributing controlled substances, including seven counts of distributing preludin and tuinal out of the Ocean City pharmacy and fourteen counts of distributing dilaudid out of the Hyattsville pharmacy....

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14 practice notes
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register April 06, 2009
    • April 6, 2009
    ...shown by proof that the defendant deliberately closed his eyes to the true nature of the prescription.\35\ \35\ United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir. (citations omitted), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 991 (1982). Another federal court has similarly stated that a pharmacist may be Pa......
  • Sodipo v. United States, Crim. No. ELH-06-0444
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • November 17, 2016
    ...medical purpose ... in the usual course of [their] professional practice." See § 1306.04(a); e.g., United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir.1982) ("The question ... in any case where a pharmacist is charged with illegal distribution of controlled substances, is whether ......
  • U.S. v. Limberopoulos, Nos. 92-1954
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 3, 1994
    ...250 U.S. 1036, 107 S.Ct. 888, 93 L.Ed.2d 841 (1987); United States v. Norris, 780 F.2d 1207, 1209 (5th Cir.1986); United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 991, 103 S.Ct. 348, 74 L.Ed.2d 387 (1982); United States v. Hayes, 595 F.2d 258, 260 (5th Cir.), ce......
  • U.S. v. Hughes, Nos. 88-1658
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • February 12, 1990
    ...the provisions of law relating to controlled substances."). We adopt the reasoning of the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 991, 103 S.Ct. 348, 74 L.Ed.2d 387 (1982) which held that where the government proves that a pharmac......
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13 cases
  • Sodipo v. United States, Crim. No. ELH-06-0444
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • November 17, 2016
    ...medical purpose ... in the usual course of [their] professional practice." See § 1306.04(a); e.g., United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir.1982) ("The question ... in any case where a pharmacist is charged with illegal distribution of controlled substances, is whether ......
  • U.S. v. Limberopoulos, Nos. 92-1954
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 3, 1994
    ...250 U.S. 1036, 107 S.Ct. 888, 93 L.Ed.2d 841 (1987); United States v. Norris, 780 F.2d 1207, 1209 (5th Cir.1986); United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 991, 103 S.Ct. 348, 74 L.Ed.2d 387 (1982); United States v. Hayes, 595 F.2d 258, 260 (5th Cir.), ce......
  • U.S. v. Hughes, Nos. 88-1658
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • February 12, 1990
    ...the provisions of law relating to controlled substances."). We adopt the reasoning of the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 991, 103 S.Ct. 348, 74 L.Ed.2d 387 (1982) which held that where the government proves that a pharmac......
  • US v. Milicia, Crim. A. No. 90-00155-1.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 2, 1991
    ...may be shown by proof that the defendant deliberately closed his eyes to the true nature of the prescription. United States v. Lawson, 682 F.2d 480, 482 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 991, 103 S.Ct. 348, 74 L.Ed.2d 387 (1982)....
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