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Texas pharmacies worked with “runners” to divert prescription opioids to the streets.
Pharmacy owners, managers, and pharmacists were among those indicted in a sweeping DEA sting on “pill mill" clinics and pharmacies. The actions of 41 individuals-which also include medical providers, clinic owners, and drug dealers-resulted in the diversion of around 23 million oxycodone, hydrocodone and carisoprodol pills, says DEA in a statement.
The DEA also served immediate suspension orders on seven pharmacies and two medical providers “involved in dispensing controlled substances without legitimate medical purpose,” DEA says. Plus, 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.
Among those charged are Kesha Lynette Harris, aka Keisha Evans Finnister, pharmacist-in-charge and owner of Creative Care Pharmacy of Houston, TX; Brandy LaDawn Fears, owner of Meds R Us Pharmacy of Missouri City, TX; Arthur Billings, owner of Healthfit Pharmacy in Houston; and Jeremy Branch, pharmacist-in-charge in Houston.
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DEA alleges that “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 30 mg. pills of all pharmacies in the entire state of Texas in 2019, and the ninth highest amount in the nation, DEA says.
The indictments allege that drug dealers and traffickers then allegedly diverted and distributed the controlled substances to the streets in some cases, 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 US,” said Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy withDEA’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 with 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.”