ATLANTA – Thomas Ukoshovbera A. Gbenedio has been sentenced for illegally dispensing and distributing controlled substances from his pharmacy. After Gbenedio was found guilty by a jury, he attempted to flee the country to avoid prison.
“Gbenedio used his pharmacy as a pill-mill to supply highly-addictive narcotics to drug dealers and drug addicts,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “His greed exacerbated the opioid epidemic that continues to plague our community. After the jury found him guilty, he then attempted to leave the country, but was quickly apprehended by law enforcement. Now, he will serve a significant prison sentence.”
“As the nationwide trend toward the non-medical use of prescription drugs swells, the need for an organized, immediate, and effective response increases correspondingly,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. “The abuse of a trusted medical professional (a pharmacist in this case) like Mr. Gbenedio will not be tolerated. He will now face the consequences of his unlawful acts. This case is a perfect example of the success that can be achieved when DEA and its law enforcement partners work collaboratively confront, engage and eliminate the distribution of controlled substances by medical practitioners. Doing so will help to stem the tide against this country’s opioid epidemic.”
“Justice is served due to collaborative efforts of multiple law enforcement partnerships,” said Michael Yeager, U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Georgia.
“This investigation emphasizes the commitment of the FBI and our partners in combatting the opioid epidemic in our country,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The public must trust in medical professionals, and the FBI will continue to investigate those who abuse their responsibilities and endanger others by engaging in criminal activity.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: Gbenedio was a licensed pharmacist who owned Better Way Pharmacy in Mableton, Georgia. An investigation into Gbenedio began after Georgia Drug & Narcotics Agency (GDNA) agents conducted a routine inspection at Better Way and noticed that several of Gbenedio’s customers were driving long distances – including from Kentucky and Alabama – to get prescriptions filled at Better Way. Several of the prescriptions were for large quantities of highly addictive opioids, like oxycodone, and many of the prescriptions were purportedly from the same physician.
The investigation later revealed that the prescriptions being filled by Gbenedio between 2014 and 2016 were not real prescriptions; they were fake or fraudulent and otherwise illegal. Gbenedio charged his customers up to $1,000 to fill the illegal prescriptions for controlled substances.
After a two-week jury trial, Gbenedio was convicted of 70 counts of illegally dispensing and distributing controlled substances and one count of refusing an administrative inspection warrant.
Once the jury announced its verdict, Gbenedio was ordered to report to Probation for location monitoring. Instead of reporting, Gbenedio attempted to flee. He ultimately was apprehended at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport with the assistance of U.S. Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Thomas Ukoshovbera A. Gbenedio, 72, of Mableton, Georgia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr., to 15 years, eight months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $200,000. Gbenedio had been found guilty by a jury on October 29, 2021.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angela Adams and Erin N. Spritzer prosecuted the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site: www.justthinktwice.gov.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at [email protected] or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.