Five Sentenced in Broward County Pharmacy Case
APR 05 – (Miami, FL) - Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), announce the sentencings of five South Florida residents for their participation in the illegal distribution of pain killers. This prosecution targeted the owners and employees of the Focus on Health Pharmacy, located in Plantation, Florida.
In July 2011, defendants Francine Sweet, Daniel Sweet, Jessica Marshall, Rony Cabral, Benjamin Meltzer, all of whom are related, Thomas Jean Baptiste, who remains a fugitive, and George Garcia, were charged for their respective roles in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone from the pharmacy.
Specifically, Count 1 of the indictment charged the first six defendants with conspiring to distribute and dispense more than 1,038,560 tablets of oxycodone, a highly addictive prescription pain killer. Count 2 charged four defendants (Francine and Daniel Sweet, Marshall and Cabral) with conspiring to launder the proceeds of the pharmacy. Count 3 charged Francine and Daniel Sweet with maintaining the pharmacy for the purpose of drug distribution. Counts 4 through 8 charged various defendants with distributing oxycodone on the specific days listed.
According to the indictment, in April 2009, Francine and Daniel Sweet became licensed and registered to dispense controlled substances from the Focus on Health Pharmacy, which had previously operated only as a medical supply store. After receiving its registration, the pharmacy began to knowingly fill counterfeit oxycodone prescriptions for groups of drug dealers operating out of Miami, as well as prescriptions from “pill mill” doctors. In May 2010, five drug dealers representing two separate crews were arrested after filling counterfeit oxycodone prescriptions at the pharmacy. All five individuals later pled guilty to federal narcotics violations. On May 4, 2010, a search warrant was executed at the pharmacy and on May 5 the pharmacy surrendered its DEA registration.
From April 2009 through May 5, 2010, the pharmacy ordered 1,038,560 tablets of oxycodone, more than 28 times the national average for dispensing pharmacies. It took in nearly $2 million in cash for these pills. A review of the prescriptions seized from the pharmacy reflected that more than 60% of the prescriptions the defendants kept at the pharmacy were counterfeit. Prescriptions for the distribution of more than 66,000 pills could not be located.
On September 28, 2011, George Garcia, a pharmacy technician, pled guilty to distributing oxycodone and was sentenced to two years imprisonment. In January 2012, the remaining defendants pled guilty. Francine and Daniel Sweet and Jessica Marshall pled guilty to conspiring to launder the proceeds of their illegal oxycodone distribution scheme. Benjamin Melzter and Rony Cabral pled guilty to distributing oxycodone.
On March 29 and 30, 2012, U.S. District Judge James Cohn sentenced Francine and Daniel Sweet, the leaders of the scheme, to 10 years in prison. Jessica Marshall was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, Rony Cabral was sentenced to two years in prison; and Benjamin Meltzer was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Demand of oxycodone has grown to epidemic proportions in South Florida and other parts of the United States, where drug dealers can sell a 30 mg oxycodone pill on the street for $10 to $30 or more. Oxycodone has a high potential for abuse and can be crushed snorted, or dissolved and injected, to get an immediate high. This abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and sometimes death.
Today’s case is a result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the DEA and BSO, as well as the many other state and local agencies involved in these operations.