DEA Lead Investigation Results in Twenty Individuals
OCT 13 -- SAN JUAN, P.R. – On September 27, 2010, Javier F. Peña, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Caribbean Division and Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico announced today a federal grand jury indicted twenty (20) individuals, in eighteen (18) different indictments, as a result of an investigation into illegally obtained prescription drugs lead by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with the collaboration of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and United States Secret Service (USSS).
The investigation revealed that the defendants submitted false prescriptions to pharmacies throughout Puerto Rico and conspired to possess, possessed or attempted to possess, Oxycodone, a Schedule II Controlled Substance, commonly known as Percocet. In some instances, the Percocet tablets were acquired for distribution and financial gain. The pharmacies where the defendants obtained the Percocet are located in Guaynabo, Patillas, Arroyo, Salinas, Juana Díaz, Juncos, Carolina, Ponce, San German, Mayagüez, Corozal and Villalba.
The defendants filled the prescriptions using real names and medical license numbers of over 24 physicians, all of whom are victims in these cases. The defendants had access to the physicians’ personal information, as well as their Federal and State license information. The defendants stole the identities of individuals whose names and/or identifications were then used in the purchase of the Percocet tablets.
“Today’s indictments exemplify the department’s commitment to aggressively prosecute all drug traffickers who endanger our communities with the sale of the controlled substances, regardless of the type of narcotic,” said United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez.
“Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem. DEA is attacking this problem in all fronts: through education, prevention and enforcement. As part of our prevention and education efforts on September 25 we collected ½ a ton of prescription drugs. Today, we attack this problem through enforcement,” stated Javier F. Peña, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Caribbean Division. “These individuals diverted hundreds of Oxycodone tablets into the illegal drug market. They committed other serious crimes such as identity theft and health care fraud. But our joint efforts with our federal and local partners paid off. Today they’ll face the full force of the law”.
“ HHS OIG will continue to work cooperatively with its law enforcement partners to investigate and apprehend those individuals who commit health care fraud by illegally obtaining prescription drugs that affect federally funded health care programs" said Special Agent In Charge, Thomas F. O’Donnell, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General , New York Region. “We commend the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico for their aggressive handling of these cases.”
“The U.S. Secret Service is known for its dual mission of protecting National leaders and conducting criminal investigations to safeguard our Nation’s financial systems. Identity theft is a serious crime that threatens our financial systems,” stated Pedro Gomez, Resident Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service in Puerto Rico. “This investigation is an example of how we are collaborating with other federal and local agencies by bringing to justice individuals that engage in identity theft to facilitate other crimes. Our message is clear: the U.S. Secret Service will have zero-tolerance towards identity theft.”
Some of the investigation highlights are as follows:
The DEA investigation, named Operation “La Redonda” (nickname given by the traffickers to the Oxycondone tablets) was conducted by the DEA Caribbean Division’s San Juan Tactical Diversion Squad, jointly with the USSS and the HHS-OIG.
The Puerto Rico Mental Health and Anti Addiction Services Administration and the Puerto Rico Police Department provided significant assistance to the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elba Gorbea is prosecuting these cases. If convicted, the defendants charged could face penalties ranging from more than one year, up to twenty (20) years in prison.
An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty. The investigation continues.