Two Sentenced in Pill Mill Case
DALLAS — Two defendants who pleaded guilty to their roles in a pill mill operation they were involved in during parts of 2013-2014 have been sentenced.
U.S. Attorney John Parker announced that Shane Barron, 27, of Austin, Texas, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater to 37 months in federal prison, following his guilty plea in October 2015 to one count of unlawful use of a communication facility. Last Friday, January 22, co-defendant Tonya Sue Griggs, 34, of Dallas, was also sentenced by Judge Fitzwater to 37 months in federal prison. She pleaded guilty in August 2015 to the same offense.
In March 2015, a federal grand jury in Dallas indicted 23 individuals, including Barron and Griggs, on offenses related to their participation in a prescription drug distribution conspiracy. That indictment alleged that from at least May 2013 through July 2014, the defendants participated in a scheme to illicitly obtain prescriptions for pain medications, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and then distribute those controlled substances for profit. As part of the conspiracy, individuals, often homeless or of limited means, were recruited and paid to pose as patients at medical clinics, including the McAllen Medical Clinic in Dallas, to obtain prescriptions to fill those prescriptions at designated pharmacies. Many of those defendants have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
According to documents filed in the Barron case, on February 18, 2014, co-conspirator Cornelius Robinson told Barron, on a phone call, that he found a bottle of 154 pills in his kitchen cabinet that he had forgotten he had. Robinson told Barron that finding the pills was like finding free money. Barron estimated that the pills were worth $2,000, but the co-conspirator said $3,000. Barron then knew that the pills were 30 mg oxycodone and that the then-going rate for one 30 mg oxycodone pill was approximately $20. Barron admits he intended to obtain some of these oxycodone pills from Robinson to distribute to his own customers and admits that he used a cell phone to facilitate the conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. Robinson pleaded guilty in October 2015 to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and is scheduled to be sentenced in April 2015. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.
According to documents filed in the Griggs case, in a phone call on October 30, 2013, another co-conspirator instructed Griggs to recruit six new individuals to pose as patients to obtain prescriptions for hydrocodone from a clinic. The co-conspirator told Griggs he would pay her $15 per recruit. The next day, Griggs sent the co-conspirator a text stating she had six recruits, but three left before going to the clinic. Another co-conspirator picked up Griggs’ three recruits and transported them to McAllen Medical Clinic to obtain prescriptions.
Last week, however, a physician, Dr. Richard Andrews, 63, of Dallas, and pharmacists, Ndufola Kigham, 44, of Arlington, Texas, and Kumi Frimpong, 55, of Grand Prairie, Texas, were arrested on charges outlined in a superseding indictment that charged them with offenses related to their roles in the conspiracy. They are on bond; trial is set for June 2016. All three were ordered to surrender their DEA registration numbers, preventing Dr. Andrews from issuing prescriptions for controlled substances and pharmacists Kigham and Frimpong from dispensing controlled substances. Also, Kigham surrendered her stock of controlled substances that she had at her pharmacy to DEA.
The investigation is being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Louisiana State Police, the Grand Prairie Police Department, the Dallas Police Department, the Houston Police Department, the Arlington Police Department, the Greenville Police Department, the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Diplomatic Security Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Walters is prosecuting.
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