41 people face 200 charges in Pinellas drug bust

Posted at 8:04 AM, Apr 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-25 08:04:50-04

Forty-one people are facing more than 200 charges for their roles in a prescription drug ring in Pinellas County.

Deputies have arrested 23 of them so far. They’re still looking for the other involved.

In a press conference Friday afternoon, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave an update on the case. Investigators learned of the drug ring after arresting Rory Darden on drug charges. The sheriff said he was found with heroin, cocaine and 74 Xanax pills in his possession. Soon after, they learned Darden was obtaining the pills through his sister Rakiah Darden.

Rakiah worked as a medical assistant for a home healthcare doctor in St. Pete. She worked there from November 2013 to February 2016. Deputies say Rakiah was writing prescriptions under his name and getting her brother and the 39 others to fill them and sell them on the streets.

Deputies say the doctor was in no way a part of the criminal activity and fully cooperated with investigators.

In the operation, spearheaded by Rakiah, her brother and several others filled a total of 417 fraudulent scripts submitted to 41 pharmacies.

“They’re all main stream pharmacies who had nothing to do with this, CVS, Publix, Walmart and Walgreens,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.

They sold 37,000 pills with a total street value of about $200,000.

The sheriff says he’s seeing an uptick for the illegal buying and selling of Xanax in Pinellas County.

“Xanax on the street now is going for, depending on who is buying and selling, at anywhere between $5 and $15 a pill. I want this to serve as a reminder to people that buying these drugs on the streets can literally kill them. The recreational use of drugs is dangerous, and even what some may consider to be less dangerous than others like Xanax is still causing people to overdose and die,” said the sheriff.

Rakiah unexpectedly left her job in February 2016, presumably because she knew she was under investigation. 

Even more charges are pending as the investigation continues.