Wednesday, April 01, 2009
ROYAL PALM BEACH — Palm Beach County Sheriff's investigators today busted 14 alleged "doctor shoppers" accused of illegally selling prescription pain killers in the Royal Palm Beach area.
The arrests are the culmination of a three-month undercover investigation called "Shop Till You Drop" that sought to reduce the number of people trafficking prescription pills in what authorities call a rapidly growing niche in South Florida's illegal drug industry.
In all, 16 people are being charged with a variety of trafficking charges. Fourteen were tracked down and arrested this morning, with two still at large.
Sheriff's Capt. Karl Durr said most of people arrested had obtained legitimate prescriptions for drugs like Oxycodone or Methadone then took those prescriptions to be filled at multiple pharmacies. The pills they bought with their prescriptions they then sold on the streets at much higher values.
"These are people that are professionally making money off prescriptions," Durr said. "They have such complicated systems here that these doctor shoppers are fooling the doctors."
All told, the 16 suspects are believed to be responsible for selling more than 73,000 pills, officials said.
In some cases, Durr said, dealers from states like Kentucky and Tennessee come to Palm Beach County and other places through South Florida to obtain pills because the prescription drug purchasing process here is less regulated and easier to manipulate.
A 30-milligram Oxycodone pill can be purchased with a prescription for $2 or $3 and then sold locally on the street for $15 or, in a state like Kentucky, for as much as $30, Durr said.
Sheriff's officials invited members of the media to photograph suspects being brought one or two at a time in cuffs to a sheriff's office substation in Royal Palm Beach. They said they realize they can't stymie the prescription drug black market with arrests alone and hoped to use the operation to educate the local community about the issue.
"We're not looking to arrest our way out of the problem," Durr said. "We're trying to work on the awareness, too."
Law enforcement officials hope that proposals in the state Legislature to reform Florida's prescription drug system by creating a "closed loop system" eventually lead to less abuse and illegal sales.
Last year more than 300 people died of drug overdoses in Palm Beach County, Durr said.
Aaron Shores, 22 , Royal Palm Beach
Roger Levesque, 51 , Royal Palm Beach
Evan Gore, 29 , Wellington
Brandon Waterman, 21 , Royal Palm Beach
Frank Dunham, 60 , Royal Palm Beach
David Pawelczak, 22 , Royal Palm Beach
Tyrone Copper, 28 , Royal Palm Beach
Michael O'Neal, 38 , city of residence unknown
Barry Molnoski, 40, Boynton Beach
Richard Belcher, 29 , West Palm Beach
Wayne McQuarrie, 34 , Jupiter
Richard Bryant, 46 , Royal Palm Beach
Darren Miller, 43 , West Palm Beach
Vivianna Bliss, 34 , Loxahatchee
Cortney Tucker, 30 , Palm Beach Gardens
Still sought as of Wednesday night
Jessica Wright, 21 , Loxahatchee