Sheriff: 61 charged in probe of Sarasota-based pill fraud ring

HERALD STAFF REPORTSeptember 20, 2013 

SARASOTA -- The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office has arrested 61 people as part of a lengthy investigation of a widespread prescription fraud ring involving residents of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The ring illegally acquired almost 20,000 Oxycodone pills, according to a news release.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Main Pain," started in July 2011 when someone presented a fraudulent prescription for Oxycodone to a Sarasota pharmacy from a Miami pain management clinic doctor, according to a news release.

"When subsequent scrips 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 scrips were delivered to that location, which is a valid address but is not the location of a pain management clinic."

Sheriff's investigators determined the ring had recruited runners to enter the pharmacies multiple times a day with identical prescriptions and pay in cash.

The recruiters chose two primary pharmacies, Olson Liggett Rexall Drug in Sarasota and Barclay Pharmacy in Venice, according to the sheriff's office.

Investigators said the unexpected arrest of one recruiter caused the ring to disband.

"The fraud scrip ringleader 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 report states.

Investigators said they eventually found evidence of 220 fraudulent prescriptions for 19,980 Oxycodone pills which were diverted from legitimate medical use. The street value of the drugs is about $300,000, according to the sheriff's office.

The man described as the ringleader, Pedro Alcantara, is being held in Miami on unrelated charges.

In Sarasota, he is charged with conspiracy to traffic in Oxycodone.

The investigation is ongoing and additional warrants have been signed, with most suspects facing multiple counts of obtaining Oxycodone by fraud and trafficking charges, according to the sheriff's office.

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