May 28, 2014

UTA professor laundered “drug money” police say

The associate communications professor and his wife were arrested last week as a part of an investigation into money laundering, Denton police said.

Denton police are continuing to pursue a two-year investigation into a pharmacy that landed a UT Arlington professor, his wife and four others in jail last week.

Eronini Megwa was suspended with pay from UT Arlington Friday after he was arrested last week on campus on a warrant accusing him of laundering more than $200,000 from his wife’s pharmacy.

He faces a charge of money laundering over $200,000, a first-degree felony.

The Denton Police Department recently released arrest warrant affidavits for Megwa, 59, an associate professor of communications, and his wife, Susan Megwa, 50, both of Southlake.

According to the arrest warrant affidavits, investigators were tipped off a few years ago that the Denton-based Megwa pharmacy was acting as a “pill mill” when its name kept popping up along with prescription fraud arrests.

Megwa’s wife owns the pharmacy and he was listed as an officer.

Four customers of the pharmacy were also arrested last week.

UT Arlington police assisted Denton police with Eronini Megwa’s arrest on campus last week, UT Arlington Capt. Mike McCord said.

Denton police spokesman Ryan Grelle said detectives found records of thousands of dollars in cash the couple earned through fraudulent prescription writing at Meg’s Pharmacy.

“That money was drug money,” Grelle said. “The cash was not reported.”

Transactions in the trash

Denton investigator Rachel Fleming searched through the Megwas‘ trash at their Southlake home in May and found both of them were on the payroll at Meg’s Pharmacy.

Eronini Megwa earned $875 every two weeks, according to the affidavits, which did not list Susan Megwa’s income from the pharmacy. He took home $75,867 from the university.

Fleming found a cash journal of money brought to their home from the pharmacy. The affidavit states the money was spent by the pair on shopping trips, cash gifts, cash transfers to Nigeria or moved to a safe.

The journal noted that $272,150 in cash proceeds was taken from Meg’s Pharmacy in 2012, and that $161,000 was marked as placed in a safe.

Wire transfers made to Nigeria totaling $223,000 were also made from a “Meg’s Discount Pharmacy” account with JPMorgan Chase between November 2011 and December 2012, the arrest warrant affidavits state.

Fleming discovered that a pharmacy account was used to pay UT Arlington admissions, SAT test fees and other costs not associated with pharmacy business.

Grelle could not say how much the Megwas paid to the university or what they paid the university for.

Records show the couple had a 23-year-old daughter enrolled at UT Arlington from fall 2010 to spring 2011.

They have another daughter who has attended the university since spring. Tiffany Megwa, 20, who is pursuing a biology undergraduate degree, declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.

Her father has taught classes in mass communication, public relations, journalism, and intercultural and international communication since 2008.

He was placed on paid suspension from UT Arlington on Friday pending a university investigation into the criminal allegations.

UT Arlington spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan said the university cannot comment on matters related to the investigation.

Megwa is not scheduled to teach in the summer, but had been scheduled to teach in the fall, she said.

Investigation could yield more arrests

According to arrest affidavits, Susan Megwa’s pharmacy ordered large amounts of hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxycontin, Adderall, amphetamine salts, butrans, morphine sulfate and methadone.

The quantities were higher than those ordered by most chain pharmacies that are open 24 hours a day, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Texas State Board of Pharmacy told police.

A search of the pharmacy’s dumpster in May yielded prescription bottle labels that appear to have been printed on a non-work computer so the pharmacy’s name would not appear.

According to the arrest warrant affidavits, this would make the pills hard to trace, and is a technique used to sell medications “out the back door” for a higher street value and leave no transaction record.

Police said Susan Megwa was writing faulty prescriptions for patients traveling outside the Metroplex, and even for herself for hydrocodone.

“The possibility of future arrests linked to the pharmacy are still great,” Grelle said.

Susan Megwa was arrested on three counts of diversion of controlled substances and one count of money laundering over $200,000. Her charges range from first to third-degree felonies.

Her husband posted $100,000 bail last Wednesday, and she posted $130,000 bail, Grelle said.

Grelle said the pharmacy is currently closed.

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