SALT LAKE CITY — A West Jordan physician's assistant and a former Utah Grizzlies hockey player both face federal charges related to the death of an NHL player who died of a drug overdose.
Oscar Johnson, who worked for the medical group that provided services to the team, prescribed 2,920 Percocet pills to Jordan Hart over two years after the player was no longer with the Grizzlies, according to an indictment filed in New York.
Beginning in late 2010, Hart allegedly sold some of those pills to New York Rangers player Derek Boogaard. Hart was introduced to Boogaard through another Rangers player at the time, the indictment says. Boogaard died of an oxycodone and alcohol overdose in his Minneapolis apartment in May 2011.
"His death in Minneapolis led law enforcement on a trail to Long Island and Utah that identified two people who allegedly supplied him diverted oxycodone, Jordan Hart and Oscar Johnson," DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said in a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York.
Johnson, 59, made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City after being arrested Tuesday. He is charged with 26 counts of illegally prescribing oxycodone and one count of making false statements to federal agents. Each drug charge carries a 20-year prison sentence, while making false statements is five years.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse released Johnson on his own recognizance with the assurance he would appear at a hearing in federal court in New York on Sept. 22. She also restricted him from dispensing narcotics. Johnson's attorney, Sam Alba, said Johnson has surrendered his license to prescribe drugs.
Furse gave Johnson the option to enter a plea to the charges in Salt Lake City or New York. The charge carries a 20-year prison term.
Hart, 31, was arrested in New York. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone.
Johnson was the Grizzlies' medical director from 2007 to 2011. Hart played on the team for two seasons from 2007 to 2009.
In January 2013, a Drug Enforcement Agent called Johnson and told him he was conducting a review of prescriptions and had questions regarding whether he had signed certain prescriptions.
Johnson responded in an email saying, "I can verify that I signed prescriptions for Jordan Hart during that time period. He was a hockey player for (the Grizzlies) at the time."
According to the indictment, Johnson lied about Hart being with the Grizzlies when the monthly prescriptions were written.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in statement that Johnson "casually" provided Percocet prescriptions to Hart for two years without once treating or examining him.
Boorgard was known as one of the NHL's leading enforcers during his time with the Rangers and Minnesota Wild. He went to drug rehabilitation in 2009 for an addiction to painkillers and sleeping pills.
Boorgard typically paid Hart in cash for the pills, except for two weeks before he died when he wrote a check for $4,000, the indictment says. Hart cashed the check a few days later. Boogaard’s father found the cashed check following his son's death, which eventually led to the investigation.
Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsCrimeTeam