By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) - A former minor league hockey player was arrested on Tuesday on charges he sold painkillers to late New York Rangers' enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and oxycodone in 2011, a U.S. attorney said on Tuesday.
A Utah Grizzlies physician's assistant, Oscar Johnson, was also arrested for writing "medically unnecessary" prescriptions for the player, Jordan Hart, who sold pills to Boogaard, who had been battling a "growing, debilitating addiction," according to an indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
"Ultimately, that addiction, fueled at least in part by the drugs that Johnson illegally prescribed, and Hart peddled for cash, culminated in Boogaard's tragic overdose death," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Boogaard was one of the National Hockey League's most feared fighters. The 28-year-old Saskatchewan native died of an overdose of oxycodone and alcohol two weeks after last purchasing oxycodone from Hart in New York, Bharara said.
Nicknamed "The Boogeyman," Boogaard spent five seasons with the Minnesota Wild starting in 2005 before signing a four-year deal with the Rangers in July 2010. During his final game he suffered a shoulder injury and a concussion during a fight.
The pair was arrested on Tuesday morning and later due to appear in federal court, Hart in Manhattan and Johnson in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hart, 31, is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, a narcotic-strength opioid. If convicted, he could face as much as 20 years in prison.
Johnson, a 59-year-old former physician's assistant for a Utah medical services group, is charged with 26 counts of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute oxycodone and one count of making a false statement.
According to the indictment, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, Johnson wrote monthly Percocet prescriptions totaling nearly 3,000 pills from June 2009 through July 2011 without properly treating or diagnosing Hart.
Boogaard left a drug abuse treatment facility in California two weeks before he died and wrote Hart a $4,000 check to buy prescription drugs in New York, the indictment said.
The 6-foot-7 (2-meter) and 265-lb (120-kg) Boogaard took one of the painkillers and was found dead on May 13 after a night of drinking with friends at bars in downtown Minneapolis.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Eric Walsh)