Courthouse notebook | Alleged Myrtle Beach drug kingpin underestimated state officials

dwren@thesunnews.comJune 30, 2012 

— Myrtle Beach resident Richard Rublowitz thought New Jersey officials were too incompetent to run a successful prescription drug monitoring program, court records show, but that program could turn out to be the beginning of the end for his family members, who are now accused in court documents of participating in a multistate conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.

Rublowitz, 57, who also had been charged in the case, was found hanged in his jail cell on Thursday afternoon at the Florence County Detention Center. His death is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division.

A complaint unsealed in federal court last week details the final months of Rublowitz’s life and his often-frantic efforts to fill illegal prescriptions so he could sell the drugs that supported his gambling habit.

The complaint also shows that Rublowitz didn’t believe New Jersey officials would ever catch on to his multiple drug purchases at pharmacies throughout the state.

“I’m living in Jersey 15 years, and I see the kind of state it is,” Rublowitz said in a March 23 conversation secretly recorded by federal investigators. “Everything they do up here they [expletive] up. The one thing I needed them to [expletive] up is the thing that [expletive] worked. That’s the one thing they didn’t [expletive] up, these [expletive]. This they made work perfect.”

Rublowitz – who moved to Myrtle Beach with his wife, Mindy, in 2009, according to a public records database – was referring to the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program.

Federal investigators charged Richard and Mindy Rublowitz and five other Myrtle Beach family members, along with three New Jersey residents, with one felony count each of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $2 million fine.

Richard Rublowitz – the alleged leader of the family-run drug operation – said during that March 23 conversation that he initially doubted doctors and pharmacies would participate in the New Jersey program, which started in September and logs into a database prescription drug purchases made within the state.

“They’ll never get it to work,” Richard Rublowitz said he believed when the program was announced, according to court documents detailing the March 23 conversation. “They’re a [expletive] up state, they’ll never, they’ll never make this thing happen. It’s just too much. Too many doctors, too many patients, it can’t work.”

Court records show Richard Rublowitz then added: “It worked good.”

Investigators said in court documents filed last week that the Rublowitz family used prescriptions from an unnamed New Jersey doctor as well as stolen and falsified prescriptions to purchase at least 110,000 oxycodone pills from major pharmacies in New Jersey between March 2008 and January 2012. The complaint said it is not clear how many more pills the family purchased from smaller, mom-and-pop pharmacies. The family then shipped the pills to Myrtle Beach by FedEx and UPS to sell illegally in this area.

In addition to Richard and Mindy Rublowitz, federal officials last week arrested the Rublowitz’s three sons – Matthew “Fat Man” Rublowitz, Justin Rublowitz and Sean Rublowitz – as well as Kristin Jacobs, the girlfriend of Sean Rublowitz, and Jacklyn Rublowitz, the wife of Justin Rublowitz, all of Myrtle Beach. Also arrested were New Jersey residents Randy Binder, Joseph Aversa and Scott Mazzara. All are facing conspiracy to distribute oxycodone charges.

The complaint details how New Jersey’s drug monitoring program snared Richard Rublowitz when he tried to fill an oxycodone prescription on Jan. 21 at a major pharmacy chain in Ocean Township, N.J.

According to the complaint:

Richard Rublowitz entered the pharmacy that afternoon and presented the manager with prescriptions purportedly for his mother and sister. Each of the prescriptions was for 240 30-milligram oxycodone pills. The manager entered Richard Rublowitz’s name into the New Jersey drug database and learned that he had received approximately 10,000 doses of 30-milligram oxycodone from about 14 different pharmacies in less than five months.

The manager also learned that Mindy Rublowitz and one of the couple’s sons, Sean Rublowitz, had similar amounts and patterns of oxycodone prescriptions filled in their names during that same period.

After trying unsuccessfully to contact the doctor who wrote the prescriptions, the pharmacy manager declined to fill them.

Over the next few days, Richard Rublowitz repeatedly called the pharmacy manager in an attempt to explain away the database findings.

“I may have dipped a couple of extra times and I may have [expletive] up,” Richard Rublowitz told the manager during one telephone conversation, referring to making multiple prescription drug purchases in a short amount of time. Richard Rublowitz added that he wanted to talk to the manager “man to man, friend to friend.” The manager refused to take any of Richard Rublowitz’s calls after that.

On Jan. 25, the manager received telephone calls from a person claiming to be the doctor who wrote the prescriptions. That person asked repeatedly how the pharmacy was going to handle the situation, and then told the manager that he preferred not to involve law enforcement.

By March 23, it was becoming clear that the alleged drug-running scheme was nearing its end, according to the complaint.

Law enforcement agents rented a hotel room adjacent to the one where Richard Rublowitz was staying in New Jersey on March 23 and recorded his telephone conversations, which were loud enough that enhancement equipment wasn’t needed, the complaint states.

“I thought it was going to go on forever over there with doc,” Richard Rublowitz stated during one conversation, according to the complaint. “So I wasn’t putting away what I should have been putting away.”

Richard Rublowitz said he regretted selling all of the pills instead of holding onto some, but he needed the money for gambling, according to the complaint. Atlantic City, N.J., casino records show Richard Rublowitz had lost about $900,000 on gambling since 2008, court records show.

“I was selling everything so I’d keep having money to gamble,” Richard Rublowitz said during the March 23 conversation, according to the complaint.

Although Richard and Mindy Rublowitz lived in South Carolina, they frequently traveled to Oakhurst, N.J., to work in the unnamed doctor’s office, according to court documents. Richard Rublowitz was the doctor’s office manager while Mindy Rublowitz was the receptionist.

Federal investigators say the doctor – identified as P.D. in the complaint – provided many of the oxycodone prescriptions to the Rublowitz family and others in exchange for cash. The doctor has not been charged.

The complaint states that P.D. would charge patients $500 for an initial office visit and between $200 and $300 for follow-up visits. Cash was the only form of payment accepted and the doctor did not perform medical examinations before writing prescriptions.

Investigators relied in part on confidential sources who visited the doctor’s office to obtain prescriptions. The complaint details how the doctor and the Rublowitzes were growing suspicious of some of the patients and confronted one about being an informant.

According to the complaint:

Richard Rublowitz was suspicious that one patient was working for law enforcement and questioned him about the validity of an MRI the patient had presented to the doctor three years earlier. Rublowitz told the informant that he was going to verify the validity of the MRI and Mindy Rublowitz then told the patient to provide a urine sample.

The doctor then told the patient to remove his socks and shoes and the doctor started inspecting an orthopedic insert that was in one of the patient’s shoes. The doctor told the patient to remove his pants and then started giving the patient a medical examination – the first one the doctor had ever performed on the patient.

After the examination, the doctor stated, “we’re good,” and told the patient to get dressed.

Richard Rublowitz took the patient outside of the office and stated “we have a situation,” adding that the patient’s uncle had told the doctor that the patient was working with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Richard Rublowitz then inspected the patient’s cell phone and asked if it was bugged.

The patient denied Richard Rublowitz’s accusations and eventually was given three prescriptions for 360 pills, including pain-killers Roxicodone and OxyContin and the anti-inflammatory drug Naprosyn. Richard Rublowitz then told the patient that they were “good” and that he had proven that he was not cooperating with law enforcement.

As Richard Rublowitz sat alone in his hotel room on March 23, he told an unknown person at the other end of his telephone conversation that he regretted getting himself tripped up by the New Jersey drug database. It wasn’t because he’d had a change of heart. He just wished he had quit while he was ahead.

“I’m sick now,” Richard Rublowitz stated during the telephone call. “I wanna go back two years. If I could go back two years in time and knowing what I know now, you and I, we’d be sitting here but not having the conversation that I’m having here.

“If I had a [expletive] brain and I was putting away what I should have been putting away the last three years, this now wouldn’t affect me,” Richard Rublowitz said. “I’d have a million dollars cash now buried in my house. But I was blind-sided.”

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.

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