Prosecutors have charged a local doctor with peddling more than 10,000 pain pills using phony prescriptions.
The whole operation was allegedly based out of two small medical clinics in Carbon County, but cops said it stretched into two states and at least eight counties.
Dr. Jack Manzella, of Salisbury Twp., Lehigh Co., now faces 98 criminal counts. The attorney general said he prescribed some $300,000 worth of oxycodone pills to fake patients out of his two clinics in Palmerton and Jim Thorpe.
Nearby parents said they had no idea a major drug operation may have been going on in plain sight.
"It's scary for, like, a doctor," said Ruth Stanley of Northampton. "That's crazy."
In court papers, prosecutors said Manzella teamed up with a longtime New Jersey con man, Robert Kosch, Jr. The investigation began after Garden State authorities raided Kosch's office in a real estate investigation.
At one Lehighton pharmacy alone, investigators allege the pair obtained more than 10,000 pills over a 15 month period using at least two allegedly fake names. They said the pair used pharmacies from the Wilkes-Barre area down to Bucks Co.
Many of the pills prescribed directly to co-defendant Kosch, said prosecutors. In court papers, investigators said Manzella admitted to the scheme.
"It's horrible," said parent Stacy Santee of nearby Kunkletown. "I can't imagine."
Parents were stunned to learn what was allegedly going on here. They said the last thing the Slate Belt needs is more drugs on the streets.
"With all kinds of drug addicts around, you can't trust anybody anymore," said Santee. "People are breaking in places, just to get drug money."
It's not clear if these prescription pills were actually sold locally or if they went to customers in New Jersey.
As for Manzella, he has given up his right to write prescriptions, according to court papers. He's out of jail after posting half-a-million dollars bond. Manzella waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday morning.
This isn't Manzella's first brush with trouble. According to published reports, a former patient sued him in 2011, accusing the doctor of coercing her into a sexual relationship. The suit also accused Manzella of "impropriety including the prescribing of certain medications."
Court records indicate the case was dismissed in January.