A burly man wearing a clown mask walks into a pharmacy. Brandishing a large knife, he heads straight for the dispensing counter and hands the pharmacist a note.
The pharmacist, Waseem Shaheen, opens the narcotics safe and fills a white garbage bag with fentanyl patches while the impatient robber waves his knife threateningly.
Shaheen hands over the bag and drops to his knees, hands in the air as the clown robber thrusts the knife through the air a few more times before beating a hasty retreat.
“I got robbed,” Shaheen told a 911 operator minutes later.
“What was taken?” the operator asked.
Only this was no robbery at all.
It was a charade, concocted by Shaheen to cover up an illicit drug-dealing operation in which he trafficked at least 5,000 fentanyl patches out the back door of his Ottawa pharmacy.
While the provincial government monitors the prescribing and dispensing of opioids in Ontario, no alarms were raised by the conspicuous volumes moving through Shaheen’s pharmacy.
In fact, those oversight and tracking systems haven’t caught a single drug dealing pharmacist in the last five years, a Toronto Star/Global News/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation has found. Instead, every pharmacist caught dealing drugs was, like Shaheen, done in by bad luck or good police work.
In the end, Shaheen was charged, convicted and sentenced to a 14-year prison term only after he called the police to report the robbery himself. He is appealing.