The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is making headlines across the Southeast United States as they wrap up a large-scale prescription drug investigation known as “Operation Pilluted.” This aggressive investigation, which has been ongoing for nearly a year now, constitutes a large-scale crackdown on the illegal sale or prescription of painkillers, and has targeted both doctors and pharmacists, focusing on painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Federal law enforcement sources report that “Operation Pilluted” is the “single largest pharmaceutical operation in DEA history.” The final stage of the operation unfolded early this morning as medical clinics, pharmacies and other facilities were raided in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. As of today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office states that over 230 people have been arrested as part of the crackdown.
Individuals targeted in these large-scale investigations commonly face charges ranging from unlawful dispensing of controlled substances and possession with intent to distribute, to charges of structuring transactions to evade reporting federal income requirements. “Operation Pilluted” is likely to generate lengthy indictments which include asset forfeiture provisions, allowing the government to seize funds they believe to be the proceeds of a crime before any trial is had on the substantive allegations. U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s Middle District, George Beck, Jr., compared the doctors and pharmacists arrested today to drug-dealing gang members, and promised that they will be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, himself a medical practitioner, called the doctors swept up in the raids today “an embarrassment to the medical profession.”
The operation is apparently not limited to medical providers – one raid in Little Rock, Arkansas resulted in the arrests of one doctor, four staffers and a security guard from KJ Medical Center, according to NBC News. The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the Arkansas clinic was “often protected by a security guard while another employee was often stationed outside to direct traffic when patients started showing up around 6:45 each morning.” Two doctors from Mobile, Alabama were also targeted, and have been accused of operating multiple pain clinics.
So far, 24 doctors, pharmacies and others have surrendered their DEA registration numbers to the authorities. These registration numbers are required to prescribe certain medications, such as powerful painkillers, and the DEA is currently moving to revoke prescribing permission in at least 24 other cases, according to a DEA official. Arkansas federal prosecutor Christopher Thyer was quoted as saying that “enough hydrocodone is prescribed in Arkansas every year to give 42 pills to every man, woman and child.” Thyer characterized the issue as more of a general health and community problem, not just a crime problem.
If you or someone you know has been targeted in a prescription drug investigation, you need to make sure you hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney who has experience with not only narcotics and prescription drug investigations, but federal prosecutions and their oft-attendant asset forfeiture cases, along with structuring charges, money laundering counts, and even conspiracy allegations. As a full-service defense firm, we protect our clients’ interests at the administrative levels as well as during all stages of any criminal prosecution, from pre-indictment work to jury trial. As an example, we recently had a client who worked as a nurse at a large medical facility for a doctor who was being investigated. Incredibly, the doctor skated through the investigation without being charged, while the nurse was indicted under the Medicare Anti-Kickback statute! We were able to not only dispose of the criminal case favorably, but fought to get our client’s professional license back.
Sometimes these types of high-profile criminal cases play out in the media. While it is preferable to keep our clients out of the papers entirely, sometimes an investigation has progressed beyond the point where this is possible. If that’s the case, it is important to get our client’s side of the story out there as well. Many a case have been won before the jury was ever selected; at Parkman & White, LLP, we custom-tailor our defense strategy for each case to ensure that if the deck is stacked, it is stacked in our clients’ favor.
The lawyers at Parkman White, LLP have decades of experience defending clients charged with prescription drug abuse, operating “pill mills,” pharmaceutical fraud, structuring and money laundering, and asset forfeitures. Often these wide-ranging investigations cast an overly wide net, and innocent people are swept up along with the guilty. These extremely serious charges can ruin a person’s life, destroying jobs, reputations and families, and can often mean a loss of liberty under the harsh United States Sentencing Guidelines. It is imperative that you find an attorney you can trust, and who you believe can get the results you are looking for. Our record speaks for itself, and the seemingly endless string of “Not Guilty” verdicts on our past cases list is a good indication of what you can expect when you retain the trial attorneys at Parkman White, LLP. Call us today and let us put our experience to work for you.