Key Player in Oxycodone Distribution Ring Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison
Used Forged Prescriptions and Recruited and Transported ‘Runners’ to Illegally Obtain and Sell Opioid Pills
A key player in a prescription forgery ring that distributed hundreds of thousands of pills of oxycodone was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 84 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. STOSH SATKOWSKI, 24, of Tacoma, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, being a felon in possession of a firearm and failure to appear in court. SATKOWSKI was a key player in the ring led by forger Anthony Ballenger, 29. SATKOWSKI recruited others to the ring who used the forged prescriptions and false identities to obtain drugs from unsuspecting pharmacies. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton commented in sentencing the defendant: “The Rule of Law is the ligament that binds us together.”
“This defendant was a critical member of a ring that forged prescriptions and sold highly addictive drugs to fatten their wallets – oblivious to the desperation they left in their wake,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “The opioid crisis is hitting communities in Western Washington hard. I commend the partnership between the federal and local law enforcement that developed the evidence necessary to hold this defendant to account.”
According to records filed in the case, Ballenger was the leader of a sophisticated ring that stole the identity information of medical professionals to forge prescriptions for powerful painkillers. SATKOWSKI was Ballenger’s key associate. The conspirators used stolen DEA registration numbers to create phony prescriptions while using various online tools to make it appear that the prescriptions had been issued by actual medical providers. In order to lull pharmacies into filling the prescriptions, Ballenger illegally accessed various online databases, including government databases, and altered the contact information for the medical professionals to divert inquiries from pharmacies to himself. Ballenger also posed as the medical professionals whose identities he stole when accessing online prescription-delivery systems, which he then used to send electronic prescriptions to pharmacies throughout Western Washington. SATKOWSKI took the forged prescriptions and fake identity documents and recruited others known as ‘runners’ who posed at patients picking up the medications at dozens of pharmacies. SATKOWSKI transported the runners and collected the pills after the transactions. Ballenger and SATKOWSKI distributed the pills to users throughout the Puget Sound region. SATKOWSKI sometimes charged his customers well above street level prices, preying on their addictions.
SATKOWSKI also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm. In October 2016, SATKOWSKI illegally possessed a Beretta handgun. He was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to his prior felony convictions for burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm, and harassment. SATKOWSKI also pleaded guilty to failing to appear for trial in May 2017, when he cut off his GPS locator and absconded from supervision.
In June 2017, Ballenger was sentenced to 76 months in prison.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad which includes task force officers from Tacoma and Seattle Police Departments and the Washington State Patrol. The U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) assisted with the investigation, as did local police agencies from throughout King and Pierce Counties.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Siddharth Velamoor.