SEVEN INDICTED IN BROWARD PHARMACY TAKEDOWN
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and Alfred Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward County, announce the indictment of seven South Florida residents for their participation in the illegal distribution of pain killers. This prosecution targets the owners and employees of the Focus on Health Pharmacy as well as the drug dealers who used the pharmacy to fill the illegal prescriptions.
Charged in the indictment are Francine Sweet, Daniel Sweet, Jessica Marshall, Rony Cabral, Benjamin Meltzer, all of whom are related, Thomas Jean Baptiste and George Garcia. Most of the defendants were arrested Thursday morning. Defendant Baptiste remains at large.
Specifically, Count One of the indictment charges the first six defendants with conspiring to distribute and dispense a highly addictive prescription pain killer. Count Two charges defendants Francine Sweet, Daniel Sweet, Jessica Marshall and Rony Cabral with conspiring to launder the proceeds of the pharmacy. Count 3 charges Francine Sweet and Daniel Sweet with maintaining the pharmacy for the purpose of drug distribution. Counts 4 through 8 of the indictment charges various defendants with possessing and distributing oxycodone on the specific days listed.
According to the indictment, Francine and Daniel Sweet became licensed and registered in April 2009 to dispense controlled substances from the Focus on Health, Rx pharmacy which had previously operated only as a medical supply store. After receiving its registration the pharmacy began to knowingly fill counterfeit oxycodone prescriptions for groups of drug dealers operating out of Miami, as well as prescriptions from “pill mill” doctors.
During the time period April 2009 through May 5, 2010, the pharmacy ordered 1,038,560 tablets of oxycodone, more than 28 times the national average for dispensing pharmacies. It took in nearly $2 million in cash for these pills. A review of the prescriptions seized from the pharmacy reflects that of the prescriptions the defendants kept at the pharmacy over 60 percent were counterfeit. Prescriptions for the distribution of over 66,000 pills could not be located.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A .Ferrer stated, “According to recent estimates, Florida prescribes ten times more oxycodone pills than all other states combined. This case is part of our concerted effort to keep South Florida from drowning in pills. Working together with our state and local partners, we are shutting down these shady storefronts through the systematic prosecution of doctors, clinic owners and now pharmacies who deal drugs while hiding behind a license.”
Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville stated, “Rogue pharmacies present another source of drugs for those traffickers involved in the illegal distribution of prescription drugs. As DEA and our state and local counterparts have been investigating those in the 'pill mill' industry, we also have rogue pharmacies in our sights.”
“I have said that we cannot arrest our way out of the pill mill epidemic, but in this case I commend everyone involved,” Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “The criminals who profited need to answer for their actions. We are making great progress in our fight to stem prescription drug trafficking and we are committed to continuing our efforts.”
According to the indictment, demand of oxycodone has grown to epidemic proportions in South Florida and other parts of the United States, where drug dealers can sell a 30 mg oxycodone pill on the street for $10 to $30 or more. Oxycodone has a high potential for abuse and can be crushed snorted, or dissolved and injected, to get an immediate high. This abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and sometimes death.
Today’s case is a result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the DEA, BSO, the Plantation Police Department, and the many other state and local agencies involved in these operations as well as the Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia J. Vaglienti, who is prosecuting this case.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are assumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.