Ohio Grand Jury Charges 12 People and 2 Businesses in Huge
APR 16 -- Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) Detroit Field Division, and Jose (“Tony”) A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation – Cincinnati Field Office, announced today that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging twelve individuals and two companies in a large scale pharmaceutical drug trafficking conspiracy. Specifically, the defendants are charged with trafficking hydrocodone and alprazolam over the internet, conspiring to launder the proceeds of such drug trafficking, money laundering, and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.
James Hazelwood, age 39, of Cumming, Georgia; Julie Toennies, age 36, of St. Louis, Missouri; Audrey Barbara Rovedo (“Barbara Rovedo”), age 61, of Jacksonville, Florida; Dr. Dora Fernandez, M.D., aka Dora Fernandez-Montalvo, aka Dora Montalvo, age 35, of Pontevedra, Ponce, Puerto Rico; Dr. Terence Sasaki, M.D., age 37, of Jersey City, NJ; Vinesh Darji, age 39, of Tampa, Florida; Bruce Liddy, age 53, of Lakeland, Florida; Helen Kann, age 50, of Atlanta, Georgia; Jennifer Ryan, aka Jennifer Ryan Nelson, age 32, of Cumming, Georgia; Diego Fiorillo, age 33, of Metairie, Louisiana; Stephen Derks, age 41, of Marietta, Georgia; and Dr. Edward Cheslow, age 50, of New York City, New York, were charged in the 37-count indictment. USMeds, LLC, which is Hazelwood’s company, and Brennan & DePaoli, Inc., dba Delta Health (“Delta Health”), which is owned and controlled by Barbara Rovedo and her husband, were also charged.
Hazelwood, Toennies, Rovedo, Fernandez, Sasaki, Darji, Liddy, Kann, Ryan, Fiorillo, Derks, Cheslow, USMeds, LLC, and Delta Health were all charged with conspiring to distribute hundreds of thousands of powerful and addictive controlled substance prescription painkillers (primarily hydrocodone products such as Vicodin and Lortab) and anti-anxiety pills (primarily alprazolam products such as Xanax) illegally, via the internet, to customers located in the Northern District of Ohio and throughout the United States. Customers accessing the internet selected the type, strength, and quantity of the drug that they wanted to purchase from the defendants. Using the veil of a drug order falsely characterized to be a “prescription,” the defendants facilitated a brief telephone “consultation” and approved the customer drug orders. The defendants then either shipped the requested drugs directly to the customer or shipped the customer a paper prescription to fill at a local pharmacy not associated with the drug trafficking organization. Customers were charged a greatly inflated price (8 to 10 times retail) when the controlled substance was shipped directly. The defendants charged the customer an inflated “consultation” price (more than a 3-fold increase) when it supplied them with paper prescriptions.
Hazelwood, Toennies, Kann, Rovedo, Fernandez, Sasaki, Fiorillo, Delta Health, and USMeds were also charged with conspiring to launder the proceeds from the illegal internet-based drug trafficking operation. Additionally, Hazelwood, Kann, and USMeds, LLC, were charged with laundering money.
Hazelwood was also charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise by unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally engaging in a continuing series of federal drug violations, in concert with at least five other persons whom Hazelwood organized, supervised, or otherwise managed, and from which Hazelwood obtained substantial income and resources.
Dettelbach stated, “Prescription drug abuse is escalating, and today’s actions signify our commitment to fighting it by targeting the sources. Whether the source is an internet pharmacy of national scope or a local dentist, we are committed to closing down pill mills that illegally distribute those drugs.”
The investigative agencies participating in this investigation are DEA, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Medina County Drug Task Force.
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendants’ prior criminal record, if any, the defendants’ role in the offenses and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
The indictment was presented to the grand jury by Assistant United States Attorneys Rebecca Lutzko and Edward Feran.
The cooperation of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Jacksonville, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Puerto Rico; St. Louis, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; and New York City, New York (SD NY) were instrumental in the arrests, searches, and initial court appearances in this case.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.