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Press Release

Final Member Of Massive Prescription Drug Conspiracy Sentenced To 151 Months In Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Kentucky

Defendant is last of 38 defendants to be sentenced

COVINGTON – The final member of a large prescription drug ring that illegally distributed approximately 80,000 prescription pills in Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio, was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison.  

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar sentenced 34 year-old Nick Sandlin, of Cincinnati, on Thursday and placed him on lifetime supervised release.  Sandlin must serve at least 85 percent of his prison sentence.  Sandlin is the last of 38 defendants involved in this conspiracy to be sentenced.

According to court records, from December of 2011 through February of 2013, Sandlin admitted to conspiring with others to distribute oxycodone.  Specifically, Sandlin organized trips to pain clinics in Florida, where several of his co-defendants obtained prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone.  The group then typically traveled to various locations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Kansas to fill the prescriptions.  Sandlin and others paid medical and travel expenses in exchange for the bulk of the oxycodone pills prescribed to each patient.  Sandlin made approximately 13 trips to Florida to obtain oxycodone and admitted to distributing over 5,000 tablets.  Sandlin  acknowledged that he took part in a smaller conspiracy to distribute marijuana during this time as well. 

This was the final sentencing in a prosecution that resulted from an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, termed Operation Family Vacation. 

All 38 members of the conspiracy have been convicted and sentenced.  The ringleaders of the group, Damon and John Helton, received sentences of 360 and 270 months in prison, respectively, for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.  Sentences for other members of the conspiracy ranged from 168 months to 30 months.  Several members of the conspiracy were also convicted of money laundering.  The average sentence was over 96 months.  This investigation resulted in the forfeiture of five motor vehicles, 25 firearms, 12 pieces of real estate, and approximately $110,000.00 in currency.  

Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, James V. Allen, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Field Division, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Cincinnati Field Office, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, jointly announced the sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force, the Covington Police Department, and the Norwood Police Department.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office was represented in the case by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tony Bracke and Wade Napier.

Updated November 25, 2015