A pharmacist in Ottawa has been found guilty of trying to cover-up significant amounts of fentanyl through faking a robbery at his store. This could be Ottawa’s first case of narcotics trafficking in the pharmacist’s profession and comes amidst relentless efforts to get rid of a growing opioid crisis.
Most stories have been about the unfortunate overdose deaths of individuals buying fentanyl. But growing more are the stories about the arrest of these fentanyl drug dealers in Australia, Europe and all over the world.
Waseem Shaheen first captured the attention of local police in October 2014 after he reported that knifepoint robbers had attacked his Rideau Street I.D.A. pharmacy store. He told the law enforcement that fentanyl patches worth more than $25,000 went into the hands of the bandits.
The patrol cop arrived, but; Shaheen couldn’t give any clue about the robber, how he looked like or possible getaways to find him. Instead, the shaken pharmacist directed the cop to the surveillance video. After analysis, a federal prosecutor later contended that the file contained nothing more than a well-staged film showing two co-conspirators.
The Ottawa Police robbery department eventually halted their investigation as their cases relied on suspect identification. The alleged robber was masked, and it was impossible to identify him. However, barely a month after the incident, Shaheen’s pharmacy records proved that he had faked prescriptions to more than 1,500 patches of fentanyl all under the name of one person: Mehdi Rostaee.
Police then arrested Rostaee for participating in prescription fraud. Then, in March 2015, Rostaee produced an audio recording of the incident. It showed that two days before the alleged robbery, Shaheen and Rostaee had met at McDonald’s and Rostaee secretly made recordings of the conversation on his mobile phone.
Rostaee’s audio recording informed the investigators that the pharmacy ordered more fentanyl than it needed for prescriptions. What is remarkable about this story is typically fentanyl is purchased through darknet marketplace drug dealers illegally. However, this is a case of the legal acquisition of the dangerous drug. In 2013 and 2014, Shaheen’s store bought 6,705 fentanyl patches with packages of 100-microgram doses. Then, it sold less than half of the doses, while the rest was unaccounted for. Clearly, Rostaee’s pharmacy was not selling medication drugs alone. It was trading narcotics, too! The robbery was an ingenious plan to launch a successful shipping.
One of Shaheen’s employees received a large stock of fentanyl that Shaheen had ordered. She said the quantity was larger than the store needed. After putting the patches away, she got startled when she realized that the drug had disappeared the next day. Then, another employee studied the inventory and found that ‘too much’ fentanyl was prescribed to Rostaee’s.
The whistleblower told the Ontario College of Pharmacists about the incident and the products that disappeared, claiming they it was some criminal plot by Shaheen.
As soon as Shaheen learned that his cover-up was exposed, he tried to cook up the paperwork. So, he planned a meeting with Rostaee. He suggested they fake a robbery. Rostaee would take a knife, and they’d try to convince everyone that the patches had been stolen. Shaheen came up with the detailed plan. He gave Rostaee clear instructions as to what he’d do or not do, including the responses he’d provide.
Rostaee was to swear that he was that he was committing the robbery to a terrified pharmacist. Frightened, the storekeeper would give up everything in the safe. Shaheen then warned that Rostaee had to disguise himself and let his gait not to reveal the plan.
“You have to cover 100 percent because once they see the camera maybe, somebody recognizes you? Somebody will,” said the pharmacist.
Then, Shaheen would let Rostaee flee and then wait for a while before altering the cops. Later, he’d say to the police that he was ‘too scared to call immediately.’ The two agreed that the plan would be carried out at two on Sunday afternoon because it was unlikely to have customers at the store. So, on October 26, 2014, the plan went almost as their script dictated.
When Shaheen was testifying his defense this fall, he said that during the conversation, there was an unreported part in which he told Rostaee to change his mind. He said that he wanted to abort the plan, but kept lousy records.
But the Ontario Court Justice Robert Wadden said that Shaheen’s version of the story was a “self-serving web of lies.”
Wadden then found that the pharmacist was guilty of fentanyl trafficking, public mischief, and insurance fraud. When he was arrested in June 2015, Shaheen operated a chain of three drug stores. One was in Bells Corners, DA on I.D.A. and St. Laurent Boulevard.
The Ontario College of Pharmacists in April 2017 pended all the disciplinary action against Shaheen until all the charges against him were completed. Since the court ruling, the college has suspended Shaheen from practicing as a pharmacist.
When giving his side of the story, Medhi Rostaee said that he needed all the fentanyl for his addiction, but the prosecutors questioned that argument. While Shaheen is yet to be sentenced, Rostaee is in police custody on multiple counts including importing controlled drugs.