Teacher charged with prescription drug sales is suspended Superintendent relieves gym instructor at elementary school

A gym teacher from Mary J. Donohoe School has been suspended after he was charged with the illegal sale of prescription drugs.

“The staff member involved was suspended and relieved of his classroom responsibilities on Feb. 6, when the Board [of Education] was advised that this staff member had been arrested,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia L. McGeehan last week.

Hudson County Prosecutor Edward J. DeFazio reported the arrests of Anthony W. Yurchak, 22, of Bayonne, Peter Francis Rapczynski, 23, of Bayonne, Emily Sue Esposito, 20, of Bayonne, and Kelly Ann Daly, 21, of Bayonne, for various narcotics and prescription theft charges.

Yurchak is a grammar school physical education teacher at the Mary J. Donohue School in Bayonne. Police allegedly found over 200 stolen OxyContin pills on Yurchak when they arrested him. A search of Yurchak’s house allegedly revealed over 300 other pills, which were mostly OxyContin, and over 100 empty bottles, according to DeFazio.

OxyContin is a sustained, controlled release formulation of oxycodone, which is classified as a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance. The drug is an analgesic for pain, but its abuse has been a continuing problem throughout the country, DeFazio said. “One of the primary methods of providing oxycodone to the illicit market has been through large-scale thefts,” he said.

Yurchak, a non-tenured teacher who was hired in September, will continue to receive his salary until he is indicted, according to state law.

“Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio informed me that there is no indication that drugs were sold to students or staff at Mary J. Donohoe School,” McGeehan said. “He further stated that there appears to be no linkage between [Yurchak’s] alleged criminal activity and his position in the school system.”

McGeehan said the matter will be reviewed with the Bayonne Board of Education at the February meeting.

Local and county investigators involved

The arrests, which took place on Feb. 5, followed a one-month long investigation in which three current employees and one former employee of Midtown Pharmacy, located at 812 Kennedy Blvd. in Bayonne, allegedly stole thousands of OxyContin pills and other prescription pills from the pharmacy.

According to police officials, the pharmacy manager and owners noticed pills missing from the store and conducted an inventory that revealed thousands of pills missing. Pharmacy personnel immediately contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration, who also notified the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and Bayonne Police Department.

An investigation was then launched by the Prosecutor’s Municipal Task Force, Bayonne Police Department and Drug Enforcement Administration, and confirmed the alleged employee thefts through store surveillance video. The investigation revealed that as many as 16,000 pills may have been taken, including mostly OxyContin, as well as Ritalin and Percocet. Police estimate the street value of the pills is between $30 to $60, making the total potential street value just under $1 million.

Bayonne Police Director Mark Smith said Bayonne police cooperated fully with the investigation, supplying whatever assistance the prosecutor’s office needed for this investigation.

Yurchak has retained Sam DeLuca, a Jersey City attorney, for his defense. If found guilty of the charges, each of the accused could face up to 20 years behind bars and payment of big fines, DeFazio said.

Bail for Yurchak and Rapczynski was set at $75, 000 cash or bond. Bail for Esposito and Daly was set at $60,000 cash or bond.

According to Prosecutor DeFazio, the investigation is still ongoing. Prosecutor DeFazio also credited the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gerard P. McAleer, and the Bayonne Police Department Narcotics Unit, under the direction of Chief Robert Kubert, whose respective agencies participated in the investigation.

Popular street drug

Councilman John Halecky, who owns a different pharmacy, said OxyContin, a popular pain relief drug, is popular on the street.

“People crush the pills and snort them,” he said. “When I heard about the report, we took a look to make sure no thefts occurred in our store.”

Halecky said thefts from his store are unlikely because of the rigorous inventory program Hudackos Pharmacy has put into place, which includes bar code and frequent physical inventories.

“We used to do a physical inventory about once a year, but now, because there has been such an increase in the demand for OxyContin, we do it on a monthly basis,” he said.

A bar coding devise not only matches pill use to prescriptions received, but also prevents the wrong drugs from being distributed. This computerization can also warn users against inappropriate drug combinations.

Hudackos also assigns its longest and most trusted personnel to the prescription department, making thefts unlikely.

“We also have a good surveillance system and keep personnel on duty even when it is slow so that we don’t have off the street thefts,” he said.

Halecky said as a councilman, he was proud of the role the Bayonne police played in apprehending the alleged drug ring.

email to Al Sullivan


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