Denver Pharmacies Entangled in
SEPT 22 -- (Denver, CO) –Today Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge of the Rocky Mountain Division Jeffrey D. Sweetin, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, William Leone along with DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy and Richard Roper U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas announced the successful conclusion of a joint effort (Operation CYBERx) targeting more than 22 rogue internet pharmacies. This was a multi-faceted Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Investigation (OCDETF) targeting major internet drug traffickers operating in the United States. Three “Brick and Mortar”pharmacies in the Denver area were served with Immediate Suspensions and Administrative Inspection Warrants. Also today, a physician in Utah has had their DEA registration Immediately Suspended and another physician in Utah has been ordered to show cause regarding their DEA registration stemming from their involvement in Operation CYBERx.
“Any attempt to stem the supply of abused drugs that does not include diverted pharmaceuticals is entirely inadequate,”stated Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Rocky Mountain Division Jeffrey D. Sweetin. “Diverted prescription drugs pose a deadly threat to the public. The American people have entrusted us with protecting them from harm.”
Today’s arrests included Johar Saran, of Arlington, TX Gaston Blanchet and Gil Lozano, of Miami, FL; S. Ted Solomon, of Orlando, FL; and Steve Rosner, of Boca Raton, FL, for being the ringleaders of this multi-million dollar fraudulent drug distribution network.
In addition to the search and arrest warrants, 20 doctors, nationwide, and 22 pharmacies will be served an order to immediately suspend their registrations based on their participation in this criminal enterprise. A suspended registration will preclude the doctor from writing prescriptions for a controlled substance. Immediate suspensions will be served in the cities of Arlington; TX, New York; NY, Orlando; FL, Ogden; UT, Seattle; WA and several cities in Puerto Rico. This scheme is a multi-million dollar enterprise involving numerous website owners, multiple Internet Facilitation Centers (IFC’s), which are linking physicians who authorize the drug, orders to a system of pharmacies nationwide, filling the orders.
Aurora Community Pharmacy , 1411 S. Potomac, #190, Aurora, Colorado, Lindy’s Pharmacy, 9950 W. 80 th Avenue, Arvada, Colorado, and City View Pharmacy, 1774 W. 92 nd Avenue, Federal Heights, Colorado were all served with Immediate Suspensions and Administrative Inspection Warrants by DEA Diversion Agents this morning. These pharmacies were filling orders from doctors associated with the Saran investigation. An Immediate Suspension prohibits the pharmacy for filling prescriptions for any controlled substance. The affected pharmacies can continue to fill prescriptions for non-controlled substances. An Administrative Inspection Warrant allows investigators to review and copy all documents required by the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) to be maintained in the normal course of business. In a three month period, the above pharmacies filled thousands of controlled substance internet prescriptions. The most frequently prescribed drugs were hydrocodone products and so-called life style drugs primarily Phentermine, a weight control drug. The pharmacies received between $7 -$20 for each internet prescription. None of the prescribing physicians are licensed in Colorado. The pharmacies shipped the internet prescriptions to customers in over thirty different states.
When ordering an illegal substance off the internet, the consumer will fill out a medical history questionnaire through a series of drop down menus. This is done to give the appearance of a doctor-patient relationship. This investigation has revealed that the doctor review and approval took as little as two seconds to complete. Evidence gathered in this investigation indicates that a doctor can make up to 1.7 million dollars a year approving illegal drug orders. This criminal enterprise would not be possible without two key elements: the rogue pharmacy owners and the unscrupulous physicians whose actions facilitated the diversion of controlled substances from the legitimate distribution system
This investigative effort is the first to target all levels of e-traffickers located solely within the United States. The sophisticated level of investigation would not have been attainable but for the dedicated and coordinated efforts of the DEA, FBI, IRS, FDA and the US Attorney’s office. The drug dealers who operated these rogue internet pharmacies took orders for controlled substances over the internet, which were then shipped to the doors of U.S. citizens-without a valid prescription. These pharmaceutical drug traffickers averaged more than $50,000 a day in profits from their criminal internet based enterprise.
Each of these e-traffickers arrested owned and operated an Internet Facilitation Center (IFC), which funneled information from websites taking consumer orders and distributed the prescriptions to a pharmacy where it is filled and shipped to the customer. Saran controlled 22 rogue pharmacies in the greater Dallas, TX area, enabling him to order larger quantities of controlled substances without suspicion. Saran’s pharmacies then filled the internet drug orders which were shipped to consumers throughout the United States. Each of these illegitimate internet based businesses operated in a similar manner, packaging and shipping over 5,000 packages of controlled substances each day.
“Rogue internet pharmacies are run by drug traffickers who operate their criminal rings while hiding behind their computer screens,”said DEA Administrator Tandy. “Illicit internet pharmacies create an anonymous environment that is profitable for the merchant and potentially deadly for the consumer. DEA is making traffickers’work more dangerous, resulting in a safer Internet for the rest of our nation.”
In addition to filling internet drug orders, Saran sold codeine cough syrup to local drug traffickers, directly from the backdoor of his warehouses. In just one year, Saran purchased in excess of 70,000 pints of this controlled substance. The investigation resulted in several seizures of codeine cough syrup that were being diverted to street sales. There are many high school and college aged youths who currently use the codeine cough syrup to achieve a high.
“Operation CybeR x demonstrates how dangerous these e-trafficking criminals truly are. E-traffickers are just a modern way of saying ‘drug dealers.’Their toll on society is equal, whether trafficking illegal narcotics or black market prescription drugs,”Administrator Tandy said.
In January of 2005, the DEA launched a toll-free international hotline (1-877-Hunt-ABUSE) for anonymous reporting of the illegal sale and abuse of controlled substances.
The resulting collaboration brought together officers from: The Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas State Board of Pharmacy, Texas Department of Health Services, Food and Drug Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and participating agencies of the DEA Ft. Worth Task Force.
For more information please contact U.S. Attorney’s Office Public Affairs Officer Jeffrey Dorschner at (303) 454-0243 or DEA Special Agent Karen Flowers at (303) 705-7351.