SEP 04 (EL PASO, Texas) –Twenty-three individuals have been arrested in El Paso for prescription fraud-related offenses, announced Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) El Paso Field Division, Regional Commander Carey Matthews of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and 34th Judicial District Attorney (DA) Jaime Esparza.
Twenty-three individuals were arrested beginning Thursday morning, during a multi-agency law enforcement operation led by DPS and DEA in conjunction with the DA’s Office. The defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining hydrocodone, oxycodone and alprazolam by calling in fraudulent prescriptions, utilizing stolen prescriptions, altering prescriptions and/or “doctor shopping.”
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioid narcotic pain relievers that are medically prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain and can be habit-forming if misused. There is a strong link between abuse of these drugs and heroin addiction because some users switch to heroin to achieve the same opioid high at a lower cost. Alprazolam is a central nervous system depressant that is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety; however, abuse can lead to physical dependence.
These charges and arrests are the result of multiple investigations targeting individuals, as well as several prescription fraud rings. In total, the investigations involved over 60 prescriptions and 6,600 dosage units of controlled substances.
“The abuse of prescription drugs is our nation’s fastest growing drug problem. All too often, this abuse leads to addiction and even death. In the interest of public safety, DEA and its law enforcement partners will continue to target those who obtain and distribute these potentially dangerous drugs through fraudulent prescriptions,” said Will R. Glaspy, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“These arrests are the result of the second major drug diversion operation in the past two years for the El Paso area, and this effort illustrates the cooperative efforts of the law enforcement community in this area. The Texas Department of Public Safety and our partners are committed to combating all crime, including dismantling drug trafficking organizations at all levels,” says Commander Matthews.
“These arrests are part of our continuing effort to pursue cases involving prescription drug fraud,” said Jaime Esparza, 34th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The state offenses with which the defendants are charged include Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity (EOC), in violation Section 71.02 of the Texas Penal Code, and Prescription Fraud, in violation of Section 481.129 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. The defendants charged with EOC, a second-degree felony, face a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison if convicted. The prescription fraud offenses faced by defendants are second-degree felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison and third-degree felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys of the 34th Judicial DA’s Office. The following law enforcement agencies participated in today’s enforcement operation: DEA, DPS and their Criminal Intelligence Division, United States Border Patrol, United States Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, El Paso Police Department, Office of Texas Attorney General and the Anthony Police Department.Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.