SARASOTA, Fla. - The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says nearly 20,000 Oxycodone pills were filled via fraudulent prescriptions.
More than 60 people have been arrested in connection with this fraud ring.
Investigators say the ring traces back to July 2011, when a person presented a fraudulent Oxycodone prescription at a Sarasota pharmacy from a Miami pain management clinic doctor. When subsequent prescriptions were presented they were identified as suspicious and declined.
The suspects regrouped, according to investigators, on July 18, just days after the new state law went into effect requiring prescriptions be written on counterfeit-proof paper.
Deputies say the group ordered 400 fraudulent prescriptions on counterfeit-proof paper listing the Miami doctor's name, DEA number and 1620 Main Street in Sarasota, as their address.
On July 25, 2011, the scripts were delivered to that location, which is a valid address, but is not the location of a pain management clinic.
Investigators with the Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit were able to determine the crime ring had several recruiters who had runners enter the pharmacies multiple times a day with identical prescriptions and paid in cash. Deputies say the recruiters chose two primary pharmacies, Olson Liggett Rexall Drug in Sarasota and Barclay Pharmacy in Venice.
The owner of Rexall Drug was not immediately available for comment. The owner of Barclay Pharmacy told ABC Action News via phone he had no knowledge of his pharmacy filling fraudulent prescriptions and that the sheriff's office has not contacted him.
Wendy Rose with the Sheriff's Office said Barclay was first contacted back in February and that he has talked with investigators on multiple occasions. She added that Barclay even provided deputies with a printout listing the names of those who had prescriptions filled for the pain killer.
Deputies say the unexpected arrest of one recruiter caused the ring to disband.
The ringleader has been identified by deputies as Pedro Alcantara. They say he is Cuban and primarily involved people of Cuban descent in the ring.
The runners were reportedly paid for the use of their personal information on the prescriptions, deputies say. They added that most of the defendants knew each other and were recruited by word of mouth, particularly if they were in need of cash.
The investigation revealed that 220 fraudulent prescriptions for 19,980 Oxycodone pills were diverted from legitimate medical use.
Deputies say the recruiters collected the pills from the runners and turned them over to the ringleader, who lived in Sarasota County at the time.
The street value of the Oxycodone pills would have been about $300,000.
Alcantara is being held in Miami where he was wanted on unrelated charges.
He is charged with conspiracy to traffic in Oxycodone.
The remaining 60 people were arrested over the past several months and as recently as last week in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. One woman was tracked to Tampa International Airport where she tried to board a flight to Cuba, deputies say.
Most of those suspects are facing multiple counts of obtaining Oxycodone by Fraud and Trafficking charges.
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