doj.gif

NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


AUGUST 13, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


WEB SITE OPERATORS INDICTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO DISTRIBUTE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS


SEVEN PULASKI COUNTY RESIDENTS EARNED $3.4 MILLION THROUGH INTERNET PHARMACIES


            SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that seven Pulaski County, Mo., residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury for participating in a $3.4 million conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs through Internet pharmacy Web sites. This indictment marks the first federal prosecution of an online pharmacy in the state of Missouri.


            Anthony D. Holman, 33, his wife, Arcelia Holman, 41, and her brother, Clifton J. Thibodeaux, Jr., 33, all of St. Robert, Mo., Yvonna G. Bays, 46, and Marvin Eugene Nelson, 60, both of Waynesville, Mo., and Mark E. Fitzgerald, 36, and his wife, Nance R. Fitzgerald, 37, both of Eldon, Mo., were charged in a 17-count indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008. That indictment was unsealed and made public today.


            “Drug dealers are using the Internet to move from the back alleys into our living rooms,” Wood said. “Customers who haven’t even seen a physician can illegally purchase addictive pain killers and other controlled substances from so-called online pharmacies.


            “But modern technology can’t disguise the fact that buying prescription drugs online can be as dangerous as taking drugs offered by a street-corner thug,” Wood added. “Narcotics sold over the Internet have led to deaths, overdoses, and addiction nationwide. We are determined to shut down these dangerous and illegal Web sites and prosecute those who profit from them.”


            The federal indictment alleges that, beginning sometime in 2005 and continuing to Oct. 16, 2007, all seven co-defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute such prescription drugs as hydrocodone, alprazolam and zolpidem by using fraudulent prescriptions obtained through the Web sites they operated. The indictment also charges Anthony and Arcelia Holman with five counts, Marvin Nelson and Yvonna Bays with two counts, Mark and Nance Fitzgerald with two counts, and Thibodeaux with one count of aiding and abetting each other to distribute hydrocodone.


            According to the indictment, conspirators used several affiliated Web sites to arrange for their customers to obtain prescriptions unlawfully, then arranged for the delivery of controlled substances from pharmacies located throughout the United States. Each of the defendants, the indictment says, owned and operated affiliated Web sites; Nelson also designed and maintained the Web sites.


            The federal indictment also alleges that, from October 2005 to April 2007, Anthony and Arcelia Holman participated in a money-laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, they conducted financial transactions that involved the proceeds of unlawful activity – the alleged conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment charges them with five counts of money laundering.


            Anthony and Arcelia Holman owned and operated PersonalizedRx, LLC, a Missouri corporation located in Pulaski County. Conspirators conducted prescription drug sales through five affiliated Internet Web sites.


            According to the indictment, customers usually began by filling out an online “medical history questionnaire” and submitting medical records via fax. Customers paid for an “initial consultation” via credit card or cash on delivery (C.O.D.); medical insurance was not accepted. The identity of the customer, the medical information in the questionnaire, and the medical records were not verified. During a telephone consultation with a physician or physician assistant, the customer would state what controlled substance he wanted to order, which the person conducting the consultation would then recommend be prescribed for the customer. That recommendation, along with the customer information, would then be forwarded to a physician who worked for the Internet pharmacy Web site operation.


            The physicians or physician assistants who conducted the consultations had no face-to-face contact with the customers, did not verify the clients’ identities or age, did not conduct any physical examinations or testing, did not verify any medical records and often were not licensed in the states in which the customers resided, the indictment alleges. The physicians or physician assistants conducting the consultations had no pre-existing physician-patient relationship with any customer, and did not communicate with anyone who did, before approving prescription drug orders for the customers.


            Physicians and physician assistants were paid a fee for each consultation and prescription, according to the indictment. Licensed pharmacists located across the United States were recruited and paid on behalf of PersonalizedRx-affiliated Web sites to fill drug orders. These orders were usually faxed to the pharmacies from the Missouri-based operation centers. The pharmacies would fill the prescription in the customer’s name and ship it to the customer.


            The federal indictment also contains several forfeiture allegations, which would require all of the defendants to forfeit to the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged conspiracy, including $3.4 million representing the amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the conspiracy, as well as the Internet domains that were utilized to commit the offenses. Anthony and Arcelia Holman would also forfeit approximately $406,910 that was seized from their bank accounts, a $10,000 cashier’s check, a 2001 BMW sports utility vehicle, a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette and a 2002 Toyota 4Runner. Bays would also forfeit $12,153 that was seized from her bank account.


            Wood cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the South Central Missouri Drug Task Force and IRS-Criminal Investigation.


****************

This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html