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Three people involved in an elaborate scheme to obtain narcotic drugs by using forged prescriptions both online and in person now face federal charges, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. The conspirators used stolen DEA registration numbers to create phony prescriptions while using various online tools to make it appear the prescriptions were from legitimate providers. A criminal complaint filed in the case reveals the defendants obtained thousands of pills of narcotic pain medication, such as oxycodone, using the forged prescriptions.
“These investigations are critically important as our country experiences an epidemic of addiction, overdose and death due to the abuse of opioid painkillers,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, eclipsing those from motor vehicle crashes or firearms. I commend the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad that investigated this scheme to stem the flow of illegally obtained narcotics.”
According to the complaint filed in the case, law enforcement began investigating the forgery ring in January 2016 following reports of an attempt to fill a forged prescription for oxycodone tablets at a Walgreens in Tacoma, WA. Investigators determined that the ring had created false profiles for legitimate physicians on websites such as healthgrades.com and patientfusion.com, and by using those profiles they had made it appear the prescriptions had come from those doctors. If a pharmacy questioned the prescription, they would call or email the contact information on the prescription or the websites, where a co-conspirator would assure them the prescription was legitimate.
Evidence uncovered in the investigation revealed that one or more of the conspirators appear to have gained unauthorized access to online-prescription delivery systems, which allowed them to send digital prescriptions to pharmacies in the victim doctors’ names.
Those arrested in connection with the scheme include:
ERIK ROAN, 31, of Tacoma, Washington
CHRISTOPHER LOVATA, 26, of Kent, Washington
LEA ESPY, 49, of Auburn, Washington.
ROAN, LOVATA and ESPY are each charged with three counts of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery deception or subterfuge. Each of the charges is punishable by up to 4 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad which contains task force officers from Tacoma and Seattle Police Departments and the Washington State Patrol. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Siddharth Velamoor.