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Insys Fentanyl Scandal: Former Boca Counselor Pleads Guilty

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BOSTON — Alec Burlakoff went from Boca Raton high school counselor to the high-flying world of pharmaceutical sales.

Now he represents the first domino to fall in the unprecedented federal prosecution of the former executive team at Insys Therapeutics — the manufacturer of a potent fentanyl spray.

Bespectacled and fit in a gray pinstripe suit, Burlakoff pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston to a RICO conspiracy.

Prosecutors said he was central to Insys’ sham speaker program, as described in The Palm Beach Post in April, to funnel $18.7 million to doctors nationwide to prescribe Subsys for migraines and other routine ailments that led to the death of nearly 1,000 patients.

The nasal spray was only approved by the Food & Drug Administration for breakthrough cancer pain. When asked after the hearing if he had anything to say to families who lost loved ones to Subsys, Burlakoff said he had no comment. His lawyer said he is now living in South Florida.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act violations, also known as RICO, are more likely to be trained on mob bosses than pharmaceutical executives. The U.S. Justice Department brought in renowned prosecutor Fred Wyshak, who pursued charges against Boston mobster Whitey Bulger and is portrayed in the movie about Bulger’s life.And like many Mafia pictures, there is the key figure who turns on the boss. Burlakoff, facing a maximum of 20 years in prison, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

His plea did not include a deal with prosecutors for a reduced sentence.

Everything will ride on what he can offer against his co-defendants, especially Insys founder John Kapoor and former CEO Michael Babich. Wyshak said Kapoor and Babich directed Burlakoff to commit wire and mail fraud and unlawful distribution of a controlled substance as part of the RICO conspiracy.

After his plea and quick courthouse lunch, he spent the day speaking with prosecutors as they prepare for a January trial on his co-defendants. Prosecutors said in court they have lined up doctors and former Insys employees to testify.

The sales guru’s plea “is going to open up a whole can of worms for these other guys,” said attorney Richard Hollawell, who is suing Insys on behalf of a family who lost a daughter, Sarah Fuller, to Subsys.

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