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Pharmacist's fortune to go to his victims



Published: Wed, February 27, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Pharmacist's fortuneto go to his victims

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A pharmacist who admitted watering down chemotherapy drugs to save money will now have his multimillion-dollar fortune broken up and distributed to his victims.

Robert R. Courtney, 49, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 20 federal counts of tampering and adulterating or misbranding chemotherapy drugs. He admitted to diluting medications 158 times for 34 patients.

Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of between 171/2 and 30 years behind bars. Courtney also faces a fine of up to $15 million. No sentencing date was set.

The druggist's assets, frozen in a federal civil case and valued at between $8 million and $12 million, are to be transferred to criminal court for disbursement to victims, the agreement said.

In the plea, Courtney also acknowledged that he and his corporation, Courtney Pharmacy Inc., conspired to traffic in stolen drugs and caused the filing of false Medicare claims.

He has said he was motivated by a need for money, including a $600,000 tax liability and $330,000 to complete the balance of a $1 million pledge he had made to his church.

Neighbor of missing girlenters innocent plea

SAN DIEGO -- A neighbor of a 7-year-old girl who vanished from her home earlier this month has pleaded innocent to charges that he kidnapped and murdered her.

David Westerfield, who was arraigned Tuesday in the death of Danielle van Dam, is being held without bond. It hasn't been decided yet if prosecutors will seek the death penalty if he is convicted, District Attorney Paul Pfingst said.

The three-page complaint against Westerfield, who also was charged with possession of child pornography, did not provide specific dates for the alleged kidnapping and murder.

Westerfield, a self-employed engineer who lives two doors from the van Dam home, has been held in an isolation cell at the San Diego County Jail since he was arrested on Friday.

"Please respect the Constitution," Westerfield's attorney, Steven Feldman, told reporters outside the courthouse after Judge Peter C. Deddeh denied the attorney's request for a gag order.

"Stop guessing about what the facts are," Feldman continued. "Let the case be tried in the courtroom, not on the streets of San Diego."

Diplomats discussSaudi peace proposal

JERUSALEM -- A tense meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs ended early today without a clear agreement on how to end 17 months of fighting, but a new Saudi peace initiative generated some hope on both sides.

Top European Union diplomat Javier Solana flew from Israel to Saudi Arabia today after the Palestinians and some Israeli officials welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's proposal that the Arab world make peace with Israel in return for Israel's withdrawal from the lands it occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.

In the West Bank, a Palestinian militiaman was killed before dawn today as he tried to plant a bomb near Israeli tanks on the outskirts of the West Bank refugee camp of Balata, where a militia leader and hundreds of gunmen are holed up.

Militia leader Nasser Awais, 32, said he and his followers would not halt attacks until the Palestinians won independence.

"We are busy all the time finding [Israeli] targets, and we will strike where we can," Awais, head of the Al Aqsa Brigades militia in the West Bank town of Nablus and adjacent Balata, said in a telephone interview.

Statistics disputed

WASHINGTON -- An advocacy group's assertions about how much alcohol teen-agers drink are disputed by both the liquor industry and the federal government.

A report issued Tuesday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University said that young people between the ages of 12 and 20 accounted for 25 percent of all alcoholic beverages consumed in the United States.

Joseph Califano Jr., the organization's president and a former U.S. secretary of health, education and welfare, called the report, "a clarion call for national mobilization to curb underage drinking."

But the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the government agency that conducted the 1998 survey cited by the group, issued a statement saying underage drinkers account for 11.4 percent of U.S. alcohol consumption.

Citing the government figures, the alcoholic beverage industry accused Califano's group of falsifying its numbers.

Frank Coleman, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, called Califano "a serial abuser of statistics for sensational purposes."

Associated Press




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