Erie Couple Sentenced in Prescription Pills Case
ERIE, Pa. - Two residents of Erie, Pennsylvania have been sentenced in federal court on their convictions of violating federal drug laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Senior United States District Judge Maurice B. Cohill, Jr. imposed the sentences on Nicole Marie Velez, 31, and Richard Edward Velez, 33. Richard Velez received a sentence of 46 months in prison and Nicole Velez received a sentence of 3 years probation. Both were ordered to pay $15,376.00 in restitution.
According to information presented to the court, while Nicole Velez was employed as a pharmacy technician at the Yorktown Centre Giant Eagle pharmacy in Erie, she unlawfully obtained Hydrocodone and unlawfully conspired with her husband, Richard Velez, who distributed the Hydrocodone pills to other individuals in the Erie area. The court was advised that, while employed as a pharmacy technician, from January 2009 through February 2010, Nicole Velez stole more than 80,000 dosage units of a combination of Schedule III Hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and took steps to conceal her theft. As part of the conspiracy to distribute, the 80,000 hydrocodone pills were then distributed to others by Richard Velez. On February 2, 2010, a search warrant was executed at the Velez’s home, and among other items, Narcotics Agents with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation seized numerous large, empty, Giant Eagle, hydrocodone stock pill containers. Also seized, and forfeited to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was $4917.00 in cash and the couple’s 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe, Z71 sport utility vehicle.
Prior to imposing sentence, Judge Cohill observed that prescription drug abuse across the nation appears to be on the rise, and that the crime committed by the defendants was a serious one.
Assistant United States Attorney Marshall J. Piccinini prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.
U.S. Attorney Hickton commended the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Narcotics Investigation for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Nicole and Richard Velez.