LAKELAND, Fla. - A pair of Polk County pharmacists and a dentist were arrested in three separate sting operations targeting the illegal sale and distribution of prescription drugs.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Ashish Patel, 35, who works at the Med Express Rx pharmacy on Shepherd Road in Lakeland. He was charged with selling an undercover officer 50 oxycodone pills for $1000, even though he didn't have a prescription.
"He's pushing drugs, illegally. He knew exactly what he was doing," said Sheriff Grady Judd, who announced the bust.
"We expect to find dope dealers in the streets selling drugs. What we don't expect is to find licensed professionals selling drugs," Judd said. The sheriff said he believes the problem to be widespread throughout the region.
Deputies also placed Dr. William Johnson under arrest. Johnson, 80, is the owner of the Sonrise Dental Clinic in Lakeland. He was charged with over-prescribing narcotics.
That case came about after Johnson's step-daughter was arrested for using forged prescriptions to obtain drugs. It's suspected Johnson gave out at least 31 prescriptions to patients who had no medical need for them.
The third arrest happened at the Apothecary pharmacy in Lake Wales, where Kalpeshkumar Patel, 36, of Orlando was accused of prescribing pills to himself, and then selling them to customers.
"It is a clear indication to me that that pharmacy may do a legal business, but it also does an illegal business," Judd said. "It was all about this greed called money."
Several customers showed up to the pharmacies after the busts, wondering why they were closed.
Sheriff Judd said while most pharmacies operate legitimate businesses, he has no qualms about shutting down those that do not.
"Not only do we lock them up. We enjoy it."
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