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Drug Enforcement Administration

Houston

Steven Whipple, Special Agent in Charge

August 28, 2019

Contact: Sammy Parks

Phone Number: (713) 693-3329

Charges filed against dozens in trafficking network responsible for diverting over 23 million oxycodone, hydrocodone and carisoprodol pills

DEA also takes administrative action and immediately suspends the controlled substance registrations of seven pharmacies and two providers; DOJ announces expansion of health care fraud strike force into Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio

WASHINGTON – A total of 41 individuals have been charged in nine indictments for their alleged involvement in a network of “pill mill” clinics and pharmacies. Those charged include medical providers, clinic owners and managers, pharmacists, pharmacy owners and managers as well as drug dealers and traffickers. Their actions allegedly resulted in the diversion of approximately 23 million oxycodone, hydrocodone and carisoprodol pills. 

 

In addition, federal law enforcement agents executed 36 search warrants, including 15 pharmacies and six “pill mill” clinics as well as other offices and residences, aimed at disrupting networks of opioid diversion. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration also served immediate suspension orders on seven pharmacies and two providers involved in dispensing controlled substances without legitimate medical purpose.

 

The Health Care Fraud Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Fraud Section led the enforcement actions in conjunction with U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern and Eastern Districts of Texas and District of Massachusetts as well as the DEA and task force officers from greater Houston police departments and the FBI.

 

The charges allege participating doctors, medical professionals and pharmacies knew the prescriptions had no legitimate medical purpose and were outside the usual course of professional practice. In some cases, “crew leaders” and “runners” allegedly filled or had the individuals who posed as patients fill the illegal prescriptions at Houston-area pharmacies. The owner and pharmacist in charge at one pill mill pharmacy allegedly dispensed the second highest amount of oxycodone 30mg pills of all pharmacies in the entire State of Texas in 2019, and the ninth highest amount in the nation. One hundred percent of the oxycodone dispended by this pharmacy – every single oxycodone pill that left the premises – was in the highest available dosage strength of that drug. 

 

On certain occasions the indictments allege that drug dealers and traffickers then allegedly diverted and distributed the controlled substances to the streets, with some pills trafficked from Houston to Boston.

 

“This type of criminal activity is, in part, what is fueling the 68,500 overdose deaths per year across the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s Houston Division. “The DEA and our numerous law enforcement partners will not sit silently while drug dealers wearing lab coats conspire with street dealers to flood our communities with over 23 million dangerous and highly addictive pills.”

 

“Today’s action shows that the Department of Justice continues to relentlessly pursue criminals, including medical professionals, who peddle opioids for profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Our use of data analytics means that no one engaging in this criminal behavior is invisible. And if you behave like a drug dealer, we are going to find you and treat you like a drug dealer.”   

 

 “Opioid abuse has a devastating and far reaching effect on our society," said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office. “The doctors, nurses and pharmacists in this case allegedly misused their positions, violating the trust of the public they took an oath to serve. Together with their co-conspirators, these medical professionals released millions of highly addictive drugs onto the streets of our community. FBI Houston remains committed to working alongside our federal, state, and local partners to combat this epidemic and protect our neighborhoods.”

 

In addition to the cases publicized today, Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski and U.S. Attorneys Ryan K. Patrick and John F. Bash also announced that the HCF Strike Force will expand into the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio, making it the 24th district with such a presence. The HCF Strike Force is a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the HCF Unit, USAOs and law enforcement partners at the DEA, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and FBI. 

 

“By and large, these clinics are all about money and not the patient,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick. “If it was about the patient, no legitimate doctor would write, and no legitimate pharmacy would fill, these massive amounts and combinations of controlled substances. Pill mills are magnets for crime and should be eradicated. I am happy and willing to partner with any agency or police department in shutting down and prosecuting these places. I am also eager to expand our work into healthcare fraud in the Rio Grande Valley. These grifters are wasting tax payer money and making healthcare more expensive for everyone else.”

 

“I am excited to team with Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski and U.S. Attorney Patrick to fight healthcare fraud in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley,” said U.S. Attorney Bash. “Fraud in the healthcare system not only rips off innocent victims and taxpayers, but it also quite often endangers the health of patients – as with the illegal distribution of addictive opioids. For that reason, it’s a major priority for all of us.”

 

Among those charged by Strike Force attorneys in the Southern District of Texas are the following:

 

Jonathan Rosenfield, M.D., 36, of Atlanta, Georgia; Elmer Taylor, 40, of Missouri City, Texas, owner; Alantha Stewart, 38, of Missouri City, Texas, owner; Kwana Broussard, 40, of Fresno, Texas, alleged crew leader; Ricky Moten, 43, of Houston, Texas, alleged crew leader; Sokari “Mama” Manuel Bobmanuel, 50, of Sugar Land, Texas, owner and pharmacist-in-charge; Ardella Fisher, 39, of Tomball, Texas, nurse practitioner; Enna Amendome, 33, of Spring, Texas, nurse practitioner; Kayode Otufale, 59, of Missouri City, Texas, manager; Jasmine Maynes, 30, of La Marque, Texas, alleged crew leader; Jabrai Price, 39, of Bryan, Texas, alleged crew leader; and Shawneece Dayempert, 31, of Houston, Texas, office worker; for their alleged participation in a scheme to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose through Sunnyside Wellness and Cornerstone Pharmacy of Houston, Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jason Knutson of the Fraud Section.

 

Amish Kordia, 43, of Pearland, Texas, owner and pharmacist-in-charge; Samson Alazar, 51, of Missouri City, Texas, pharmacist; Kwana Broussard, 40, of Fresno, Texas, alleged crew leader; James Johnson, 42 of Houston, Texas, alleged crew leader; and Lashundra Wilson, 40, of Houston, Texas, alleged crew leader; for their alleged participation in a scheme to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose through Freeport Pharmacy of Freeport, Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jason Knutson.

 

Kesha Lynette Harris, aka Keisha Evans Finnister, 47, of Houston Texas, pharmacist-in-charge and owner of Creative Care Pharmacy of Houston, Texas, for her alleged participation in a scheme to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jason Knutson.

 

Laurel “Ms. T” Osazuwa, 57, of Bellaire, Texas, owner of Houston Medical and Wellness Institute of Houston, Texas, for her alleged participation in a scheme to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jason Knutson.

 

Barbara Marino, M.D., 58, of Tomball, Texas; Leticia Herrera, 33, of Houston, Texas, office manager; Kwana Broussard, 40, of Fresno, Texas, alleged crew leader; Jasmine Johnson, 38, of Houston, Texas, alleged crew leader; and Robbie White, 28, of Houston, Texas, alleged crew leader; for their alleged participation in a scheme to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose through Angels Clinica Familiar of Houston, Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jason Knutson and Drew Pennebaker.

 

Bobby Hobbs, M.D.; James John Jackson, Jr., M.D.; Tameka Moore; Kondre Graves, owner of Chasen Clinic of Houston, Texas; and Tara Graves, for their alleged participation in a scheme to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose through Chasen. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Drew Pennebaker of the Fraud Section.


Brandy LaDawn Fears, 44, of Houston, Texas, owner of Meds R Us Pharmacy of Missouri City, Texas; and Ricky Moten, 44, of Houston, Texas, alleged crew leader; for their alleged participation in a scheme to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Drew Pennebaker.

 

Arthur Billings, 55 of Missouri City, Texas, owner of Healthfit Pharmacy of Houston, Texas; Jeremy Branch, 32 of Houston, Texas, pharmacist-in-charge; Deanna Michelle Winfield-Gates, 50 of Houston, Texas, pharmacist; Frank Cooper, 49 of Houston, Texas, pharmacist; and Donna Hooper, 56, of Houston, Texas, pharmacy technician; for their alleged participation in a scheme to distribute and dispense controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Drew Pennebaker.

 

Among those charged by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Heinrich in the District of Massachusetts are the following:

 

Michael Spinola, 43, of Boston and Miami, for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone; conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; and conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana; Curly Kelly, 40, of Houston, Texas, for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone; conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; Jesus Castillo, 46, of the Dominican Republic, for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone; Marcos Rosa of Southbridge, Massachusetts, for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; and Russell Watkins, 53, of Brockton, Massachusetts, for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

 

In addition to the Strike Force prosecutions, law enforcement conducted additional enforcement actions that included the execution of search warrants and suspension of DEA registration numbers. In the Southern District of Texas, 350 law enforcement personnel executed a total of 36 search and seizure warrants, including 15 pharmacies and six clinics. DEA also issued nine immediate suspension orders to support related investigative efforts to interrupt an opioid drug diversion distribution chain.

 

The charges and allegations contained in the indictments are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

 

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force (MFSF), which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since its inception in March 2007, MFSF has maintained 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts and has charged nearly 4,000 defendants, who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

 

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