SARASOTA -- A Bradenton woman was among 29 people charged for their involvement with a 2011 prescription fraud ring after a 10-month investigation, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight announced Friday morning.
Operation Bad Apple began in March 2012 whenthe sheriff's Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit learnedthat dozens of fraudulent prescriptions for Oxyco-done from Luxor Industries Physicians Group inNorth Fort Myers were being filled at Apple Pharmacy, 500 N. Indiana Ave., in Englewood from June to August 2011.
Englewood residents anonymously notified authorities of suspicious people and activity near the private business, Knight said.
Detectives believe the scripts were stolen from the unlicensed pain clinic that closed in July 2012, Knight said. The doctor whose name was on the forms used denied writing any of the prescriptions, according to arrest documents.
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During the two-month span, the 29 people charged presented 67 almost identical prescriptions for 15 mg and 30 mg Oxycodone pills, often arriving together or going through the drive-through window at the private pharmacy.
More than $40,000 in cash was transferred and more than 7,000 pills made it to the streets.
"The question is why did two dozen people from three different counties all go to a private pharmacy in Englewood to fill prescriptions from Fort Myers," Knight said, adding that an investigation into the pharmacy's involvement is ongoing to determine "what they know or didn't know."
Knight said pharmacies have many tools available to them, such as the
statewide pharmaceuticaldatabase, to check specific doctors or patients when filling prescriptions, but it is possible Apple Pharmacy turned "a blind eye."
The 29 suspects arefrom Manatee, Sarasota,Charlotte and DeSoto counties, charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and trafficking Oxycodone. They are:
John Barrett, 34, of North Port, 240 pills.
Tiffany Cooke, 22, of Bradenton, 480 pills.
Shanell Dozier, 28, of Arcadia, 240 pills.
Jeffrey Gradert, 53, of Venice, 180 pills.
Rachel Green, 33, of Port Charlotte, 240 pills.
Tiffany Green, 24, of North Port, 330 pills.
Kelly Grunert, 26, of North Port, 240 pills.
Sandra Izykowska, 24, of Venice, 180 pills.
Charles James, 22, of North Port, 240 pills.
Ashley Kipp, 24, of Venice, 240 pills.
James Kipp, 44, of Venice, 240 pills.
Garrett Langowski, 35, of Nokomis, 240 pills.
Amanda Long, 35, of Nokomis, 480 pills.
Jason Mathis, 42, of Englewood, 240 pills.
Raishondra McKenzie, 29, of North Port, 480 pills.
Sean Meyers, 21, of North Port, 720 pills.
Lori Moser, 38, of Venice, 240 pills.
Corinne Patrone, 29, of North Port, 330 pills.
Robert Phillips, 29, of North Port, 240 pills.
Richard Pirro, 23, of Venice, 240 pills.
Tommy Richardson, 23, Of Punta Gorda, 480 pills.
Sheryl Roff, 50, of Arcadia, 240 pills.
Tyler Stevenson, 21, of Englewood, 240 pills.
Edward Tallakson, 36, of Sarasota, 240 pills.
James Vallaire, 49, of North Port, 240 pills.
Samantha Walton, 21, of Venice, 240 pills.
Brenda Weiss, 48, of Venice, 240 pills.
John Weiss, 52, of Venice, 180 pills.
Ryan Worley, 30, of North Port, 480 pills.
Twenty-eight people,five of whom were already incarcerated at the Sara-sota County jail, are in custody.
Among those charged are a husband and wife, and a father and daughter.
Bonds range from $30,000 to upward of $200,000. Some are being held without bond.
One warrant is outstanding in the case and more arrests are expected.
In addition to the 29 charged suspects, several others involved are in prison on charges from other cases.
At least two have fatally overdosed since the alleged fraud was committed, Knight said.
If convicted, most suspects will face a minimum of 15 or 25 years in prison based on the number ofpills received.
"The way these pills were used was not a medical purpose," said Knight, explaining that Oxycodone is a synthetic heroin.
"These people who get pills commit crimes."
All but four suspects have local criminal histories, according to the sheriff's office.
Since law enforcement started a crackdown on unlicensed pain clinics, sometimes referred to as "pill mills," prices have more than doubled to $30 per pill in the region, Knight said.
"We're cutting off that supply," he added.
The Sarasota CountySheriff's Office was assisted in this investigation byNorth Port Police Department, Charlotte County Sheriff's Office,DeSoto County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Anyone with informa-tion on this case or similar suspicious activity can call the sheriff's Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit at 941-861-5800.
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.