By Alfa · Mar 4, 2005 ·
  1. Alfa

    Dozens of people, some high, picking up prescription pills to allegedly abuse or sell illegally.

    A drug dealer's house? No -- a United Parcel Service office.

    Out-of-state Internet pharmacies are the newest pipeline for pills into the black market in Eastern Kentucky, and authorities have begun trying to crack down on the problem at the entry points, the delivery-service distribution offices.

    Officers from Operation UNITE and the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation, assisted by local police, charged a total of nine people Friday and Monday evenings at the UPS hub in Hazard, said Dan Smoot, law-enforcement director for UNITE. Those charged were customers, not employees of UPS.

    Smoot said police intend to continue the crackdown at other delivery-service offices in Eastern Kentucky.

    Smoot said he's been surprised at what he's seen since UNITE officers went out recently for their first evening of surveillance at the Hazard UPS facility. The first night, he saw two drug deals in the parking lot; Friday, 80 to 100 cars wheeled in during a two-hour period so the occupants, sometimes several to a car, could pick up pills.

    Smoot estimated that 3,000 pills, many destined for illegal sales, flow out of the Hazard UPS center on a Friday night.

    "It's the biggest mess I've seen in my 20-odd years of policing,"

    Smoot said.

    A UPS spokesman did not return a telephone call today. However, Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who's office includes the KBI, said delivery companies are cooperating with authorities.

    One woman police interviewed Friday had ordered pills through three different addresses, Smoot said. That's why the customers come to the delivery offices to pick up the packages. They've ordered under a fake name or used fake addresses to get multiple deliveries, and the companies wouldn't be able to deliver the pills.

    One man told police he didn't have a computer, but that people order pills over the Internet in the names of others who then pick them up.

    Those "customers" then pay the person who actually placed the order with either money or pills, Smoot said.

    Police say the problem of drug trafficking supplied by bogus Internet pharmacies has grown rapidly, in large part replacing the "pill mills"

    run by unscrupulous doctors. Federal and state authorities have shut down a number of those doctors in recent years.

    The charges filed against people at the hazard UPS center so far were for such infractions as driving while impaired by drugs. No one has been charged in relation to the drugs they picked up, but the investigation is continuing and such charges will be filed, Smoot said.

    For instance, it is against the law in Kentucky to provide a false name in ordering the drugs.

    However, police don't have to wait for those charges to confiscate packages of pills if they are not properly labeled. Friday and Monday, police seized 15 packages, each containing 60 Xanax sedative pills and 60 painkillers called Lortabs, that had false names or addresses on them, Smoot said.

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