(Adds date of conviction, DOJ comment)

By Dietrich Knauth

Feb 2 (Reuters) – A federal jury on Wednesday convicted former Rochester Drug Co-operative (RDC) CEO Laurence Doud of trafficking opioids to “bad pharmacies” and “dirty doctors”. After two days of deliberation, the jury found Doud, 78, guilty of conspiracy to distribute illegal narcotics and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Doud, who is due to be sentenced on June 29, could face life in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that this was the first case in which a drug distributor and corporate executives faced criminal charges for opioid drug trafficking. US Attorney Damian Williams said it shows the US Justice Department will prosecute those responsible for the opioid crisis, “whether they are street dealers or executives”.

Prosecutors said Doud, driven by “greed”, ordered employees to ignore red flags when selling Oxycontin and fentanyl to pharmacies and doctors who eventually distributed them for illegal purposes.

The Doud, DRC company filed for bankruptcy in 2020. In 2019, it agreed to pay $20 million to settle criminal and civil charges related to the sale of opioids.

While DRC drugs were making people sick, “what made Larry Doud sick was losing money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Roos said Monday during closing arguments. Doud’s directives led RDC to sell dangerous opioids to “dirty doctors” who were nothing more than “drug dealers in lab coats”, Roos said.

Doud’s defense attorney, Robert Gottlieb, argued that Doud had become a “scapegoat” for the opioid addiction epidemic. Doud will appeal the verdict, Gottlieb said.

“Today’s verdict is a monumental travesty of justice,” Gottlieb said, adding that he believed Doud would “prevail on appeal.”

Witnesses at trial said the actions of Doud and RDC led to illegal sales of Oxycontin and fentanyl. These included RDC employees, a pharmacist convicted of trafficking illegal opioids, and an opioid addict who said she obtained illegal drugs from a Staten Island pharmacy supplied by RDC.

One witness, former DRC compliance officer William Pietruszewski, pleaded guilty in 2019 to conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

More than 500,000 people have died from an opioid overdose in the past two decades, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. (Reporting by Dietrich Knauth; Additional reporting by Luc Cohen Editing by Noeleen Walder and David Gregorio)