Operation Pill Street Blues Nabs Fourteen in Florida
The DEA announced 14 arrests last week in a press release about Operation Pill Street Blues. The name shows a bit of humor from the agency, but the charges of racketeering and distribution of prescription drugs are very serious.
The operation, conducted across the state of Florida, netted seven doctors and seven clinic owners, two of whom were firemen. This follows on the heels of a crackdown on prescription fraud though so-called “pill mills” that as recently as last year had Florida supplying much of the southern United States with illegally obtained prescription drugs.
Along with 144 counts, including conspiracy and racketeering, 59 bank accounts were seized, totaling more than a million dollars.
Interestingly, the defendants started their operations by first doing a little investigating of their own. They are alleged to have studied DEA methods used in previous sweeps (Operation Pill Nation and Operation Oxy Alley) to discover what led to the arrests of their predecessors in crime. This attempt to stay under police radar and stay within the gray areas of prescribing. Among the techniques was turning in competitors and even some of their own patients. But they couldn’t hide the end results – patients on the street abusing or selling the prescriptions obtained through the clinic and pharmacy network.
To make their case, the DEA used wiretaps, informants and undercover agents who posed as addicts. Fake DEA agents were able to obtain an astounding 2,732 oxycodone tablets “without medical justification.” In total, the seven doctors charged prescribed more than two million doses of oxycodone in a year.
Ideally, this sweep won’t just remove a small network of bad doctors and fake clinics, but will tip off others thinking about abusing the system to the consequences. Unlike the street level addicts, who may take extreme risks to get their drugs, doctors and other medical professionals have careers and licenses at stake. A public display of the severe consequences of trying to manipulate the system may give them pause or keep them on the right side of the law.