SARASOTA, Fla (970 WFLA)- The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 61 people in a lengthy investigation into a widespread prescription fraud ring involving local residents.
In July 2011, a subject presented a fraudulent Oxycodone prescription at a Sarasota County pharmacy from a Miami pain management clinic doctor. When subsequent scripts were presented they were identified as suspicious and declined. The suspects regrouped and on July 18, just days after the new state law went into effect requiring prescriptions be written on counterfeit-proof paper, the group ordered 400 fraudulent prescriptions on counterfeit-proof paper listing the Miami doctor’s name, DEA number and 1620 Main Street, Sarasota, as the 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. The recruiters chose two primary pharmacies, Olson Liggett Rexall Drug in Sarasota and Barclay Pharmacy in Venice.
The unexpected arrest of one recruiter caused the ring to disband. The fraud script ring leader is Cuban and primarily involved people of Cuban descent from Sarasota County who were paid for the use of their personal information on the prescriptions. Most defendants knew each other and were recruited by word of mouth, particularly if they were in need of cash.
The investigation eventually revealed that 220 fraudulent prescriptions for 19,980 Oxycodone pills which were diverted from legitimate medical use. The recruiters collected the pills from the runners and turned them over to the ringleader, who lived here at the time. The street value of this quantity of Oxycodone pills would have been about $300,000.
At this time, the ringleader, Pedro Alcantara, is being held in Miami where he was wanted on unrelated charges. He is charged with Conspiracy to Traffic in Oxycodone. Another 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.
The investigation is ongoing and additional warrants have been signed, with most suspects facing multiple counts of Obtaining Oxycodone by Fraud and Trafficking charges.