Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

State pharmacist convicted of conflict of interest

By Debra Erdley

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A judge has convicted a former state pharmacist on felony conflict of interest charges for taking payments from drug companies and pocketing money for supervising pharmacy interns from Duquesne University.

Steven Fiorello, 61, of Palmyra could face up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines for each of two felony convictions. Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis, who ruled in a nonjury trial, scheduled sentencing for Jan. 21.

Fiorello's attorney, Joseph Metz, said his client had not decided whether to appeal. "We're disappointed," he said.

Fiorello was director of pharmacy for the Department of Public Welfare's Office of Mental Health, Substance and Abuse Services and was secretary of a committee that approved Medicaid-paid drugs in state hospitals, prisons and juvenile centers.

Fiorello paid more than $27,000 in civil fines after the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission cited him for state ethics violations in connection with the same allegations in 2005.

Attorney General Tom Corbett filed criminal charges against Fiorello a year later, accusing him of accepting money from drug companies for consulting work, honorariums and trips between 1998 and 2003, while he was the secretary of a panel that oversaw Medicaid drug guidelines for state hospitals.

The complaint said Fiorello accepted perks from Pfizer and Janssen, two companies that were promoting the use of psychiatric drugs in state hospitals. And he used his position to pocket $2,400 from Duquesne University for supervising pharmacy interns at state hospitals between 2000 and 2003, prosecutors said.

Fiorello was convicted on a third, misdemeanor count for failing to file a full accounting of his outside income on his state ethics disclosure forms.

"We're very pleased with this outcome," Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Harter Eshbach said. "We would not have brought criminal charges if we had not felt they were justified, over and above the ethics case."

Debra Erdley can be reached at derdley@tribweb.com or 412-320-7996.

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