Arrest Warrants for 5 in New Orleans-Based
May 07 (New Orleans, LA) - Jimmy Fox III, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New Orleans Field Division, and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr., announced that arrest warrants have been issued for five individuals associated with a rogue internet pharmacy that was operating in New Orleans, Louisiana today.
The arrest warrants, along with search warrants of several locations in the New Orleans and Seattle area, were executed midday when scores of federal, state, and local agents and officers descended on the
Web Marketing Services, LLC operates multiple websites supplying prescription medication to customers via the internet. These businesses are owned and operated by Carlton and Gwendolyn Charles. Multiple DEA investigations over more than a decade have established that Carlton and Gwendolyn Charles, with knowing assistance from other subjects, including Oremo Ochillo, Emma Porter, and Anthony Crain, have maintained an ongoing drug distribution and money laundering enterprise since at least May 1998, involving tens of thousands of documented drug sales and millions of dollars in proceeds. Carlton and Gwendolyn Charles, both licensed pharmacists at one time, established Ideal Pharmacy in 1994 with permits allowing them to purchase controlled and legend drugs for the purpose of lawful prescription resale.
In 2000-2001, Carlton Charles was caught selling drugs from his vehicle in an undercover sting, and drugs valued at approximately $1 million were found missing from the pharmacy. He was arrested and pled guilty to felony distribution, his license was suspended, and his and Gwendolyn’s pharmacy business permits were revoked. Nonetheless, since that time, the enterprise has continued to buy and sell high volumes of drugs outside of federal and state laws and regulations, and to distribute them without valid prescription in New Orleans and throughout the United States through multiple internet pharmacy fronts. The investigation revealed that proceeds from the enterprise have been used in acquiring or maintaining the enterprise’s interests in properties and other businesses, including Calypso Properties LLC and Sports Vue LLC.
DEA’s audits of Ideal pharmacy from 2006-2010 by federal and state investigators found significant unaccounted shortages of the drugs Hydrocodone, Alprazolam (Xanax), and Promethazine with Codeine missing from the Ideal Pharmacy inventory. The street value of the thousands of missing dosage units from the audits totaled approximately $4,441,659.00 to $5,918,782.00.
From December 2006 through September 2011, more than 5,000 individual transactions were conducted through the Web Marketing accounts, totaling over $16 million in transactions. Over $6 million was deposited into the accounts in the form of CODs (cash on delivery) or merchant accounts from internet drug sales. Over 31,500 COD instruments from individuals, totaling over $4 million, were deposited over the period. Each COD represents an individual purchase of legend or controlled drugs.
If convicted, all of the defendants face a maximum 99 year sentence.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Fox poignantly stated, “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 directly on the heels of our 4 th Annual DEA National Take Back Initiative that took in 276 tons of unwanted or unused prescription drugs. 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 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.”
Drug Enforcement Administration agents from New Orleans, in a special unit called the Tactical Diversion Squad (TDS), with the assistance of a special Financial Investigator and officers from the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO), Harahan Police Department (HPD), Westwego Police Department (WPD), St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office (SBSO), the Louisiana Office of the Attorney General’s Office (LAGO), the Louisiana State Board of Pharmacy (LSBP), and the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office conducted an approximate eighteen month investigation into the illegal drug distribution operations of the Ideal Pharmacy Care, Inc., dba Esplanade Pharmacy, a brick and mortar location at 1400 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA and Web Marketing Services, LLC, whose mailing address is 1631 Elysian Fields, New Orleans, LA.
The public is reminded that, as in any criminal case, a person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The charges filed merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.