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  1. source
    IOWA CITY, Iowa — A fugitive doctor charged in the nation's largest prosecution of Internet pharmacies is getting off in part because there's just too much evidence in his case: more than 400,000 documents and two terabytes of electronic data that federal authorities say is expensive to maintain.

    Armando Angulo was indicted in 2007 in a multimillion dollar scheme that involved selling prescription drugs to patients who were never examined or even interviewed by a physician. A federal judge in Iowa dismissed the charge last week at the request of prosecutors, who want to throw out the many records collected over their nine-year investigation to free up more space.

    The Miami doctor fled to his native Panama after coming under investigation in 2004, and Panamanian authorities say they do not extradite their own citizens. Given the unlikelihood of capturing Angulo and the inconvenience of maintaining so much evidence, prosecutors gave up the long pursuit.

    "Continued storage of these materials is difficult and expensive," wrote Stephanie Rose, the U.S. attorney for northern Iowa. She called the task "an economic and practical hardship" for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    The case started in 2003 with a raid of a small Iowa drugstore and eventually secured the conviction of 26 defendants, including 19 doctors. The investigation dismantled two Internet pharmacies that illegally sold 30 million pills to customers. Investigators also recovered $7 million, most of which went to Iowa police agencies that helped with the case.

    When a major drug suspect flees the country, federal authorities often leave the charges pending in case the fugitive tries to sneak back into the U.S. or a country with a friendly extradition process. But in Angulo's case, the volume of evidence posed a bigger burden.

    The evidence took up 5 percent of the DEA's worldwide electronic storage. Agents had also kept several hundred boxes of paper containing 440,000 documents, plus dozens of computers, servers and other bulky items.

    Two terabytes is enough to store the text of 2 million novels, or roughly 625,000 copies of "War and Peace."

    Two-terabyte memory drives are widely available for $100, but the DEA's data server must be relatively small and may need replacement, a costly and risky proposition for an agency that must maintain the integrity of documents, said University of Iowa computer scientist Douglas Jones.

    "A responsible organization doesn't upgrade every time new technology is available. That's all they would be doing," Jones said. "But the result is you end up in situations like this where the capacity they have is not quite up to the incredible volume of data involved."

    Randy Stock, who runs the website whatsabyte.com, which explains electronic storage, said he doubted that storing the data would have been that problematic for the government.

    "I'm thinking that excuse is just their easy way out," he wrote in an e-mail.

    U.S. District Judge Linda Reade dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.

    Angulo, 59, was accused of improperly authorizing thousands of prescriptions for pain pills, diet medication and other drugs while working for Pharmacom International Corp., a Florida-based Internet company that operated from 2003 to 2004.

    The company's doctors approved prescriptions without examining patients, communicating with them or verifying their identities, prosecutors said. Three Pharmacom officials and a person who recruited doctors were sentenced to prison. Eight physicians pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances and launder the proceeds.

    The investigation began after agents raided the Union Family Pharmacy in Dubuque and found evidence that it had illegally dispensed medication over a six-month period for Pharmacom and another Internet company, Medical Web Services, which pleaded guilty. Eleven of its physicians were also prosecuted.

    Angulo fled to Panama around the time Florida regulators suspended his medical license for prescribing controlled substances to Medicaid patients "in excessive quantities and without medical justification." An audit found his prescriptions cost Medicaid $6.5 million over six years and caused addiction and dangerous health risks.

    Investigators know Angulo's whereabouts in Panama, which has an extradition treaty with the U.S. to return fugitives. But a spokeswoman for the Panamanian Embassy in Washington said the country never received a formal extradition petition for Angulo and that the country's constitution bars the extradition of Panamanian citizens.

    The dismissal of the charges does not mean Angulo is free to return to the U.S. He is still listed as one of Florida's most wanted criminals and is being sought for separate Medicaid fraud and narcotics charges in that state.

    CBS News, 15th August 2012.

Comments

  1. Wanderer
    Just a clarification here, if this guy had two terabytes of data and that was 5% of the "DEA's worldwide electronic storage". The if my calculations are correct, they only have a total of 40 terabytes of "worldwide electronic storage". Somehow that's hard to believe in these days of increasing storage capacity and decreasing costs.

    A way to bet the DEA or any government agency for that matter? Overwhelm them with data. Who woulda thunk it?

    Be well...
  2. Basoodler
    I would guess that there are households where if you added up the storage on all devices would be close to 40tb.

    I am sure the dea has the cash to buy a few more hard drives for their server.
  3. SmokeTwibz
    Drug Enforcement Administration has only 40TB of electronic storage worldwide

    Two terabytes of evidence against a defendant is burdening DEA's servers.
    [imgr=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=27771&d=1345802150[/imgr]
    You may have seen the headlines going around: "Drug charges dropped because of too much evidence" or "Charges dropped against fugitive doctor, because evidence is using too much space on federal servers." It may sound incredible, but it's at least partially true. The DEA might really be that crunched for space, with only a 40 terabyte storage system—smaller than a few projects managed by Ars Technica readers.

    Ars tracked down the original motion to drop the case against Armand Angulo, a doctor living in Iowa who had illegally sold millions of dollars worth of prescription medication online. The DEA started its investigation in 2003, and indicted Angulo and about two dozen other accomplices in 2007. The problem was that Angulo fled the country to his native Panama in 2004, and Panama has been uncooperative in extraditing Angulo to the US.

    In the 5 years since Angulo's indictment, the DEA amassed "two terabytes of electronic data (which consume approximately 5 percent of DEA’s world-wide electronic storage capacity), several hundred boxes of paper documents, and dozens of computers, servers, and other bulky evidence. Continued storage of these materials is difficult and expensive," read a motion filed by US Attorney Stephanie Rose in July.

    "Given the slim likelihood of Angulo’s extradition from Panama, and the economic and practical hardship related to continued storage of evidence in this matter, the United States moves to dismiss the Indictment, with prejudice, against Armando Angulo," the motion continued. Dismissal with prejudice means the case can not be reopened in court, but Angulo will also be prohibited from re-entering the US.

    This particular case wasn't dismissed entirely because the defendant had too much evidence against him, but rather because all that evidence would likely have to be stored indefinitely. Still, 2 terabytes of electronic data consuming 5 percent of the Administration's electronic resources would mean the DEA operates with 40TB of data storage worldwide—a ridiculously small number considering the relative affordability of terabytes of data these days.

    Speaking to the Associated Press, University of Iowa computer scientist Douglas Jones suggested that "the DEA's data server must be relatively small and may need replacement, a costly and risky proposition for an agency that must maintain the integrity of documents."

    Ars contacted the DEA, but could not reach anyone who could comment on the matter.

    by Megan Geuss - Aug 17 2012, 8:15pm CDT
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/...y-has-40-tb-of-electronic-storage-world-wide/
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