News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Two Sentenced to Prison for Scheme to Get Prescription Medication by Fraud

Defendants Stole Identities, Health Insurance Info and Prescription Pads to Obtain Drugs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2011

            Two Seattle area residents were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to long prison terms for their scheme to obtain prescription narcotic pain medications using other people’s identities, health insurance and stolen prescription pads.  HORACE MITCHELL, III, 26, and ALYSE BURRELL, 28, both of Seattle, pleaded guilty in May 2011 to Aggravated Identity Theft and Conspiracy To Acquire Controlled Substances by Fraud and To Distribute Controlled Substances.  BURRELL was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of supervised release, and MITCHELL was sentenced to four and a half years in prison and three years of supervised release.  U. S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly imposed the sentences.

            According to records filed in the case, ALYSE BURRELL worked as a billing technician at a medical clinic in Seattle.  She stole patient information, such as names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and health insurance plan numbers for approximately 60 patients of her employer.  BURRELL and MITCHELL used the stolen information and stolen prescription pads to forge prescriptions for narcotic pain killers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.  The pair forged the names of three different doctors on the prescription forms and charged the drugs to the health insurance associated with the stolen patient identities.  They passed nearly 100 fraudulent prescriptions in numerous different counties in Washington and Oregon, obtaining more than 8,000 pills of oxycodone; 4,569 pills of hydrocodone; and at least 1,550 doses of methadone.  The pair then sold drugs to others to be distributed in the Seattle area.  BURRELL and MITCHELL were arrested in Oregon on October 10, 2010, attempting to fill fraudulent prescriptions.  After they were released on bond in Oregon, they resumed their criminal conduct by passing more fraudulent prescriptions in Seattle.  As a result they were arrested on these federal charges.  

            Prosecutors noted the increasing threat from prescription drug abuse in their sentencing memo.  “Burrell and Mitchell obtained and distributed a massive quantity of highly-addictive and dangerous prescription painkillers in less than a year.  These prescription painkillers are wreaking havoc in the community and having a lethal effect.  Painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone--the precise drugs distributed by these defendants--have displaced cocaine and heroin as the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in this community,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.  

            The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the FBI.  Seattle Police Department, Shoreline Police Department, Washington County Oregon Sheriff’s Office, Beaverton Oregon Police Department, Milwaukie Oregon Police Department, and Tigard Oregon Police Department participated in the investigation.  Regence Special Investigations Unit also provided assistance.

            The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mary K. Dimke and Thomas Woods as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Working Group on Prescription Drug Trafficking.

 

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