Squirrel Hill man sentenced for running prescription drug ring

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A Squirrel Hill head shop owner was sentenced Friday to a decade in prison for running an oxycodone ring that used addicts to procure prescriptions from doctors at Florida pain clinics.

Jason Weitzner, owner of J&S Glass on Murray Avenue, also was ordered to forfeit his J&S bank account and all money in accounts in the name of his father, Lawrence Weitzner, who is serving two years in prison for helping his son launder the drug money.

Jason Weitzner pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and money laundering for operating the ring between 2010 and 2012, although prosecutors said he started the operation in 2008 in Florida before moving it to Pittsburgh.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimated that he sold 28,000 pills in the Pittsburgh region and received hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he spent on fancy dinners, expensive clothes and premium hotels. Forfeiture actions indicate he laundered more than $1 million by hiding it in his father’s accounts. In a bid for leniency, Mr. Weitzner argued that he is addicted to drugs and riddled with health problems, but the U.S. attorney’s office countered that he was no longer addicted during the time of the conspiracy.

“This is not the spending of a down-on-his-luck” person addicted to drugs, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen wrote in pre-sentence papers. “Rather, this is the spending of a large-scale drug dealer.”

Mr. Rosen said Mr. Weitzner’s underlings visited disreputable pain clinics in South Florida, obtained prescriptions for painkillers, then flew to Pittsburgh to get the prescriptions filled at various pharmacies. Mr. Weitzner then sold the pills to Pittsburgh-area drug dealers for $15 to $20 a pill.

Prosecutors said Mr. Weitzner took advantage of lax prescription drug monitoring in Florida, a hotbed for pain clinics where, the DEA says, doctors routinely prescribe pills to drug users in exchange for cash. In 2010, Mr. Weitzner realized he could make higher profits filling the prescriptions in Pittsburgh instead of in Florida, so he moved the operation to Western Pennsylvania, prosecutors said.

Mr. Weitzner paid his runners’ personal expenses and in some cases gave them pills and cash.

Mr. Rosen said Mr. Weitzner and his father contributed to oxycodone addiction in the U.S. In 2010, 15,000 people died of oxycodone overdoses in America, more than the overdose deaths from heroin and cocaine combined, he said.

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.

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