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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
September 21, 2005
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
Number: 202-307-7977

Operation CYBERx Dismantles Nationwide Internet Pharmacy Scheme

(Dallas, TX) –Today, Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator (DEA) Karen Tandy and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Richard Roper announced the arrest of 18 individuals after the successful conclusion of Operation CYBERx, which targeted more than 22 rogue Internet pharmacies. This was a multi-faceted Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Investigation (OCDETF) aimed at major Internet drug traffickers operating in the United States. Today’s arrests included Johar Saran, of Arlington, TX; Gaston Blanchet and Gil Lozano, of Miami, FL; S. Ted Solomon, of Orlando, FL; andSteve Rosner, of Boca Raton, FL. These individuals were arrested for allegedly being the ringleaders of this multi-million dollar fraudulent drug distribution network.

This investigative effort is the first to target all levels of e-trafficking located solely within the United States. The sophisticated level of investigation would not have been attainable without the dedicated and coordinated efforts of the DEA, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the US Attorney’s office. The alleged drug dealers who operated these rogue Internet pharmacies took orders for controlled substances over the Internet, which were then shipped to the doors of U.S. citizens without a valid prescription. These alleged pharmaceutical drug traffickers averaged more than $50,000 a day in profits from their criminal Internet-based enterprise.

Each of these e-traffickers allegedly owned and operated an Internet Facilitation Center (IFC) which funneled information from websites, taking consumer orders and distributing prescriptions to pharmacies where they were filled and shipped to the customer. Saran allegedly controlled 22 rogue pharmacies in the greater Dallas area, enabling him to order larger quantities of controlled substances without suspicion. Saran’s pharmacies then filled the internet drug orders which were shipped to consumers throughout the United States. Each of these illegitimate internet based businesses operated in a similar manner, packaging and shipping over 5,000 packages of controlled substances each day.

“Rogue Internet pharmacies are run by drug traffickers who operate their criminal rings while hiding behind their computer screens,” said DEA Administrator Tandy. “Illicit Internet pharmacies create an anonymous environment that is profitable for the merchant and potentially deadly for the consumer. DEA is making traffickers’ work more dangerous, resulting in a safer Internet for the rest of our nation.”

In addition to filling Internet drug orders, Saran allegedly sold codeine cough syrup to local drug traffickers directly from the backdoor of his warehouses. In just one year, Saran purchased in excess of 70,000 pints of this controlled substance. The investigation resulted in several seizures of codeine cough syrup that were being diverted to street sales. There are many high school and college-aged youths who currently use the codeine cough syrup to achieve a high.

“Operation CYBERx demonstrates how dangerous these e-trafficking criminals truly are. E-traffickers are just a modern way of saying ‘drug dealers.’ Their toll on society is equal, whether trafficking illegal narcotics or black market prescription drugs,” Administrator Tandy said.

When ordering an illegal substance off the Internet, a consumer fills out a medical history questionnaire through a series of drop down menus. This is done to give the appearance of a doctor-patient relationship. This investigation has revealed that the doctor review and approval took as little as two seconds to complete. Evidence gathered in this investigation indicates that a doctor can make up to $1.7 million a year approving illegal drug orders. This criminal enterprise would not be possible without two key elements: the rogue pharmacy owners and the unscrupulous physicians whose actions facilitated the diversion of controlled substances from the legitimate distribution system.

In addition to the search and arrest warrants, 20 doctors and 22 pharmacies nationwide will be served an order to immediately suspend their registrations based on their participation in this criminal enterprise. A suspended registration will preclude the doctor from writing prescriptions for a controlled substance. Immediate suspensions will be served in the cities of Arlington, TX; New York, NY; Orlando, FL; Ogden, UT; Seattle, WA and several cities in Puerto Rico.

The DEA Denver Field Division office served immediate suspensions at three additional pharmacies filling Internet drug orders. These pharmacies were allegedly filling orders from doctors associated with the Saran investigation.

In January of 2005, the DEA launched a toll-free international hotline (1-877-RX-ABUSE) for anonymous reporting of the illegal sale and abuse of controlled substances.

The resulting collaboration brought together officers from the DEA, FBI, IRS, FDA, Texas State Board of Pharmacy, Texas Department of Health Services, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and participating agencies of the DEA Ft.Worth Task Force.

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