Seven men with access to Veterans Administration hospitals in New Jersey face federal charges that they peddled heroin, crack and hydromorphone to patients.

(Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Under arrest are Philip Johnson, 52, of Basking Ridge; Robin Merritt, 55, of Hackensack; Abdul Kareem Muhammad, 50, of Bound Brook; Yusef Muhammad, 59, of North Plainfield; Thomas Pearson, 66, of Dover; Christopher Shalaby, 31, of Somerville; and Jon Stuckey, 49, of Newark.

Each faces anywhere from one to three counts of distributing controlled dangerous substances. Each count carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison and fines as high as $1,000,000.

All seven are veterans with privileged access to the hospitals, say investigators with New Jersey U.S Attorney Paul Fishman's office.The transactions took place in the East Orange and Lyons facilities. Five were arrested at the East Orange center, one at Lyons and one at home.

According to Special Agent Jeffrey Hughes of the Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General, the probe has its roots in a veteran's overdose death in the Lyons hospital two years ago.

"Subsequently," he said in a prepared release, "the FBI and VA OIG jointly launched an operation which focused on combating the sale of heroin and crack cocaine to patients at Lyons. VA management at Lyons, including VA Police, provided invaluable support during the course of this investigation."

"We hope," he concluded, that "anyone selling drugs at VA treatment facilities will realize that we will vigorously pursue them to protect veterans seeking treatment."

Read the individual complaints