Owners of Lorain Pharmacies Charged with Drug, Money Laundering and Tax Crimes
A Federal grand jury returned a 53-count criminal indictment yesterday charging pharmacist Osama Salouha, age 41, his wife Samah Salouha, age 36, both of Strongsville, Ohio, and pharmacist Sbeih Sbeih, age 45, of North Olmsted, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Osama Salouha was charged with using his pharmacies, Southside Pharmacy in Lorain and Medicine Center Pharmacy in Elyria, to sell opioids and opiates illicitly.
Osama Salouha, a pharmacist, was charged with 16 counts related to the dispensation of controlled substances, as well as two money laundering counts, six tax counts, 12 structuring counts and two counts of making false statements to law enforcement.
Samah Salouha was charged with one count each of structuring and false statements.
Sbeih Sbeih, a pharmacist, was charged with one money laundering count and four tax counts.
“The opioid and heroin epidemic in this state is fueled by drug dealers out to make money,” Dettelbach said. “Whether the evidence leads to a cartel, a stash house or behind a pharmacy counter, we will follow it, and we will hold these profiteers accountable.”
“Hiding income, structuring financial transactions to avoid currency requirements and filing false returns is not tax planning; it’s tax fraud. It’s a felony offense that carries severe consequences,” stated Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “The IRS stands ready to partner with all law enforcement agencies to pursue individuals who commit these types of crimes that damage our community and the integrity of our tax system.”
The indictment alleges that Osama Salouha used his pharmacist’s license to illegally distribute Schedule II controlled substances like oxycodone and oxymorphone to customers at Southside Pharmacy in Lorain, Ohio, and Medicine Center Pharmacy in Elyria, Ohio. Mr. Salouha also made false statements to law enforcement about his prescription drug distribution.
“Pharmacists are licensed to dispense controlled substances to real patients with legitimate prescriptions. It is alleged that these individuals abused their positions of trust and endangered the lives of countless people by illegally distributing opiate painkillers throughout Northeastern Ohio. Despite their professional status, these individuals elected to use their pharmaceutical training to feed the habits of drug abusers and acted just like the street corner drug dealers. DEA is committed to continue working with our federal, state and local partners to investigate and arrest violators of the controlled substance act” said Denise Foster, Group Supervisor DEA Cleveland Resident Office Tactical Diversion Squad.
Osama Salouha and his co-owner of Southside Pharmacy, Sbeih Sbeih, also engaged in a conspiracy to launder money to conceal the proceeds to avoid transaction reporting requirements. And Osama Salouha committed international money laundering through wire transfers to bank accounts overseas.
Osama Salouha and Sbeih conspired to defraud the IRS by concealing their income on their corporate and individual income tax returns, which understated the amount of income that Southside Pharmacy was earning. Mr. Salouha made false statements to law enforcement about his income tax.
Osama and Samah Salouha engaged in structuring cash deposits to bank accounts to avoid the generation of currency transaction reports, and Mrs. Salouha made false statements to law enforcement about her efforts to structure the deposit of cash.
If convicted, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
The charges were investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Cleveland, Ohio, the Internal Revenue Service, Cleveland, Ohio, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ohio Board of Pharmacy, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, the Akron Police Department, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Drug Task Force, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Lorain County Drug Task Force, Strongsville Police Department, MEDWAY Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Cleveland Heights Police Department. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Collyer and Linda Barr.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.