Three-State Pill Ring Busted

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The arrest of 49 people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania this week shows that drug dealing isn’t just for Mexican cartels and gang members.

In what’s being described as the largest network of prescription fraud ever busted, the network of doctors and dealers was operating throughout the northeast and is alleged to have put more than a half-million prescription narcotic pills into the hands of addicts.

According to NBC, there were two separate rings run by a Manhattan doctor and his office manager. The pair, Dr. Hector Castro and Patricia Valera, along with 47 others, were arrested in one sweep after more than a year’s investigation. The market value of the drugs was put at “at least $10 million.”

The investigation was launched after a pill bottle labeled with Castro as the prescriber was found at the scene of a oxycodone overdose in New Jersey. There were also complaints from pharmacies in Pennsylvania who were suspicious about the number of narcotic prescriptions coming from Castro.

The Scheme

The scheme used real prescription pads with forged signatures in one version. These were then sold for cash to drug dealers. Another method was to simply generate a prescription at the office without actually examining the patient. One undercover officer was able to buy prescriptions for $128 each without any medical care being provided.

Both Castro and Valera were arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court, and both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Medical Professional Drawn to the Dark Side

It may be hard to imagine a medical professional drawn to the dark side, putting his license and reputation at risk. But the demand for prescription drugs is skyrocketing, and the money is just too tempting for some.

When the simple act of signing your name can generate $100 or more, some doctors can’t resist. The really amazing part is that a single operation could grow so large and have such a great impact on the community.

There needs to be a better mechanism to catch offenders earlier – a 15-month investigation might make for a stronger case, but that’s more than a year's worth of narcotics continuing to flow into the community.

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