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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 25, 2021

Operation Wasted Daze: 46 Convicted in $18 Million Pill Mill Scheme

Forty-six defendants, including two doctors, a nurse practitioner, and five pharmacists, have been convicted of operating an $18 million pill mill scheme, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.

They were arrested in 2020 by the DEA’s Fort Worth Tactical Diversion Squad in “Operation Wasted Daze.”

The lead defendant, 61-year-old oncologist Caesar Mark Capistrano, was charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to dispense hydrocodone and possession with intent to distribute hydrocodone or carisoprodol.  He and five coconspirators – pharmacists Ethel Oyekunle-Bubu, Wilkinson Oloyede Thomas, and Christopher Kalejaiye Ajayi as well as recruiter Brian Kincade and recruit  Alphonse Fisher – were convicted at trial. The remaining 41 defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial.

According to evidence presented at three different trials conducted in early 2021, Dr. Capistrano and his associate, 36-year-old Dr. Tameka Lachelle Noel, wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, carisoprodol, zolpidem, phentermine, and promethazine with codeine, knowing the drugs would be diverted to the streets for illicit use.

Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel, assisted by 48-year-old clinic manager Shirley Ann Williams, used a network of recruiters to enlist individuals from the community and local homeless shelters to pose as “patients.”  Recruiters paid each “patient” a small fee, usually $50 to $200 cash, to obtain controlled substance prescriptions from Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel.  

The recruiters – who paid the clinic based in part on the amount of drugs prescribed – then filled the prescriptions at various complicit pill mill pharmacies and diverted the drugs for resale on the streets.

The pharmacists charged the recruiters between $200 and $800 per prescription, filling hundreds and hundreds of prescriptions for a fee, according to evidence presented at trial.

At the clinic, many of the “patients” were seen not by the doctors, but by Ms. Williams, who possessed neither a medical license nor a DEA registration. After a perfunctory conversation with the “patient,” Ms. Williams allegedly coordinated with Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel to prescribe dangerous drugs without legitimate medical purpose.  In order to make the prescriptions appear legitimate, the doctors occasionally included prescriptions for non-controlled substances, such as antibiotics and mineral ice.

Over a nine-year span, Dr. Capistrano issued prescriptions for more than 524,000 doses of hydrocodone, 430,000 doses of carisoprodol, 77,000 doses of alprazolam, and 2.07 million doses of promethazine with codeine. Over seven years, Dr. Noel issued prescriptions for more than 200,000 doses of hydrocodone, 55,000 doses of carisoprodol, 14,000 doses of alprazolam, and 450,000 doses of promethazine with codeine.

Often, the doctors prescribed multiple medications simultaneously and at the highest dosages available.

“Pill mills funnel potentially deadly opiates onto our streets, wreaking havoc in communities beset by addiction,” said U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah. “The doctors, pharmacists, and clinic staff convicted in this case violated not only medical ethics, but federal law as well. We are proud to bring them to justice, and we remain committed to fighting the opioid epidemic where it matters most – at the point of entry.”

“Mr. Capistrano and his criminal associates have violated the public’s trust and stained the image of such a vital and noble profession in our society, especially during a time where we need our front line healthcare workers the most, said DEA Dallas Field Division Special Agent in Charge, Eduardo A. Chávez. “Profiting off the lives of those addicted to controlled prescription drugs stops now. DEA Fort Worth and all of our North Texas law enforcement partners will never waver and always ensure justice is the best medicine.” 

Medical professionals convicted in the scheme include:

  • Caesar Mark Capistrano, medical doctor
    Convicted at trial on 1/28/2021 of three counts of conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance
     
  • Tameka Lachelle Noel, medical doctor
    Pleaded guilty on 11/16/2020 to conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance and was sentenced to eight years federal prison.
     
  • Ngozika Tracey Njoku, nurse practitioner
    Pleaded guilty on 11/20/2020 to conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance
     

Clinic staff convicted in the scheme include:

  • Shirley Ann Williams, clinic office manager
    Pleaded guilty on 11/18/2020 to conspiracy to disperse a controlled substance 
     
  • Latonya Ann Tucker, office staff
    Pleaded guilty on 11/20/2020 to  conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and was sentenced to five years federal prison.
     

Recruiters convicted in the scheme include:

  • Ritchie Dale Milligan, Jr
    Pleaded guilty on 11/18/2020 to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and was sentenced to eight years federal prison.
     
  • Wayne Benard Kincade
    Pleaded guilty on 11/16/2020 to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance
     
  • Katie Lorane Parker
    Pleaded guilty on 11/16/2020 to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance
     
  • Cynthia Denise Cooks
    Pleaded guilty on 11/25/2020 to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and was sentenced to five years federal prison.
     

Pharmacists convicted in the scheme include:

  • Wilkinson Oloyede Thomas, Calvary Pharmacy
    Convicted at trial on 1/28/2021 of three counts of conspiracy to dispense controlled substances and one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances 
     
  • Christopher Kalejaiye Ajayi, Remcare Pharmacy
    Convicted at trial on 3/2/2021 of three counts of conspiracy to dispense controlled substances, and two counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances
     
  • Bartholomew Anny Akubukwe, Beco Pharmacy
    Pleaded guilty on 11/18/2020 to conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance and was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.
     
  • Nedal Helmi Naser, Brandy Pharmacy
    Pleaded guilty on 3/16/2021 to conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance.
     
  • Ethel Oyekunle-Bubu, Ethel’s Pharmacy
    Convicted at trial on 1/28/2021 of three counts of conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
     

Dr. Capistrano now faces up to 100 years in federal prison, 20 years per count. His coconspirators also face up to 20 years per count of conviction. 

The DEA Dallas Field Division’s Fort Worth Office conducted the investigation, with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, IRS – Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, and the Fort Worth Police Department.  The DEA’s Fort Worth Tactical Diversion Squad is comprised of DEA agents and task force officers from the Arlington Police Department, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, the North Richland Hills Police Department, the Benbrook Police Department, the Granbury Police Department, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office. This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura Montes and Shawn Smith prosecuted the case. 

Topic(s): 
Opioids
Contact: 
Erin Dooley Public Affairs 214-659-8707 erin.dooley@usdoj.gov
Updated March 30, 2021