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    Auto dealer, landscaper corrupted by what prosecutor called 'the allure of money'

    At Mike's Auto Sales near Stanton, customers were buying more than used Fords from owner Michael R. Scalia. Many came to get the painkiller oxycodone.

    In suburban Dover, Michael "Kyle" Griffith ran a landscaping company and a lucrative oxycodone ring.

    Scalia and Griffith headed prescription drug networks that provided tens of thousands of the addictive pills to addicts and dealers. Both men, who were hooked themselves, are now in federal prison.

    While some dealers, such as Griffith, start out peddling pills, authorities say longtime dealers of heroin, cocaine and marijuana are increasingly turning to prescription narcotics.

    "The audacity of a drug dealer never really surprises me anymore," said David C. Weiss, first assistant U.S. attorney for Delaware. "You have all kinds of individuals who do this on such a big basis."

    Scalia, 53, was previously convicted of trafficking phencyclidine, known as PCP, an animal tranquilizer.

    By 2009, Scalia had a nice home in Bear, a wife and children, his car lot -- and the drug ring. Though court papers show Scalia called it a "small distribution operation," he admitted selling 6,000 and 18,000 pills. "It was extensive, serious, and dangerous," federal prosecutor Shawn A. Weede wrote.

    Scalia was heard on a wiretap telling relatives they should go to a suspected snitch's home with "baseball bats and masks."

    Scalia was "a kind of clearinghouse" for people with legitimate and fraudulent prescriptions looking to sell pills, Weede said in an interview. "He'd farm them out to people who couldn't obtain them via prescription and then resell them at astronomical prices."

    Scalia started taking painkillers to treat arthritis, said Stuart A. Snyder, a retired New Castle County police major who bought several cars from him. "He has a legitimate need, and I knew it hurt so much sometimes that he couldn't get out of his chair. That's how bad his joints were," said Snyder, who wrote a letter on Scalia's behalf to his judge. Scalia was sentenced to nine years in prison.

    Snyder said Scalia's business instincts must have told him, " 'I can take these drugs and make a buck.' It's a shame. I certainly don't condone it, but I can see how it can happen."

    Kent County pill ring

    Griffith, 30, a former high school wrestler with no criminal record, became a dealer late in 2009, when his landscaping business was floundering.

    At a wedding in Delaware, he ran into a relative from Florida. Identified in court papers as "P.S.," the man told Griffith he could solve his financial problems by shipping him pills.

    By February 2010, the man was mailing Griffith 2,000-pill packages of fast-acting, 30-milligram oxycodone pills.

    By June, authorities knew of the operation and about the same time, FedEx employees alerted agents about a suspicious package for Griffith that agents seized. Seventeen such packages of pills were sent to Griffith between February and May 2010, Weede said.

    After one package failed to arrive in Dover and thousands of dollars in cash mailed to Florida was intercepted, Griffith and Kristopher Collins, an electrician identified as his "right-hand man" in court papers, began making pill runs to Florida.

    They stored the drugs at Collins' home and sold them to middlemen such as Patrick Finfinger, 48, a neighbor of Griffith who owned a deck company.

    The ring distributed 49,000 pills over 10 months, Weede said, ending in October 2010 after South Carolina police seized about $21,000 from Collins and another man after a traffic stop, and Griffith was arrested in Delaware.

    Also charged that month was Collins' brother Ashley, a Delaware prison guard.

    In September, Griffith, Kristopher Collins and Finfinger each received at least three years in prison.

    The Scalia and Griffith "oxy" rings confound Weede. All the dealers had real jobs but were corrupted by what the prosecutor called "the allure of money."

    Source: Delaware News
    3:10 AM, Nov. 7, 2011


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