Conviction of Four Defendants in Largest Illegal Prescription Drug Case in the History of New Orleans
August 2 (New Orleans) – Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office obtained the conviction of Carlton Charles, 61, Gwendolyn Charles, 57, Emma Porter, 65, and Anthony Crane, 48. On July 31, 2012, the defendants, in what is believed to be the largest case involving the illegal distribution of prescription drugs in the history of New Orleans, pled guilty at their arraignment after being indicted less than two weeks ago. A fifth defendant, Oremo Ochillo, 37, pled not guilty and is presently in custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff.
Carlton Charles pled guilty as charged to ten counts of Money Laundering, three counts of Racketeering, eight counts of conspiracy to possess a controlled dangerous substance with the intent to distribute, and seven counts of conspiracy to distribute a legend drug. On August 20 th, Charles will be formally sentenced to a 25-year term of imprisonment but was remanded today into the custody of the Orleans Parish sheriff.
Gwendolyn Charles pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, three counts of conspiracy to launder money, and one count of attempted possession with the intent to distribute hydrocodone. Gwendolyn Charles received a 10 year suspended sentence.
Emma Porter and Anthony Crane each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money, one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, and one count of conspiracy to distribute a Legend Drug. Both received five-year suspended sentences.
Oremo Ochillo, the only remaining defendant, pled not guilty to five counts of conspiracy to launder money, one count of racketeering, and seven counts of conspiracy to distribute a Legend drug. A pretrial conference in that case is scheduled for August 20 th.
The case arose out of Operation Click for Script, a more than year-long investigation by the New Orleans Field Division Tactical Diversion Squad (Group 14), which targeted an enterprise of multiple rogue internet pharmacy fronts (under the Carlton Charles DTO) that were distributing large quantities of drugs without valid prescriptions in New Orleans and throughout the United States. The investigation uncovered more than 5,000 documented individual transactions that were conducted through the web marketing accounts, totaling over $16 million. DEA audits of the brick and mortar pharmacy businesses associated with the Charles DTO found significant unaccounted shortages of the drugs hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), and promethazine with codeine. The street value of the thousands of missing dosage units from the audits totaled approximately $4.44 to $5.92 million.
The DEA taskforce included representatives from the local Drug Enforcement Administration, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office, the New Orleans Police Department, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office, Harahan Police Department, Westwego Police Department, and the St. Bernard Sheriff’s office.
In response to these convictions, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said, “I want to thank the Drug Enforcement Administration and Jimmy S. Fox, the Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Field Division of the DEA, for having the confidence in my office to prosecute this case. Our federal law enforcement partners, with the assistance of ADAs from my office and several local law enforcement agencies, built a strong case against these defendants. As such, we were able to take the case against four of the five defendants from arrest to conviction in less than three months. I look forward to working future cases with our Federal partners in what I believe will be a new and innovative model for the prosecution of large scale narcotics dealers in this city.”
SAC Fox remarked, “ The exemplary work of the DEA agents, state and local agencies, and the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office represents a crowning achievement for this complex, long term investigation. Prescription drugs are the new crack cocaine of our time. Consequently, the prescription drug epidemic is present in each and every state in this country. DEA recognizes that the solution involves a proactive response from all affected parties including parents, children and the community as a whole. Today’s operation sends a clear message to the citizens of New Orleans who have cried out that we need to do something about this epidemic: we have heard you. To the criminals who continue to illegally peddle this poison behind the false safety of paper scripts, computer screens, and lab coats—we can reach you, and we will.”
To date, this investigation has led to the seizure of more than $1.7 million in bank accounts and other financial instruments. Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorneys Michael Redmann and Autumn Cheramie prosecuted the case.