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SAN DIEGO-- Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that agents from the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement today arrested five college-age individuals who conspired to fraudulently obtain thousands of “dangerous and potentially lethal” prescription drugs.
From January to March 2009, the co-conspirators illegally obtained 2,500 pills, primarily Oxycontin and Xanax, with a street value in excess of $70,000.
“These individuals used stolen physician information to obtain thousands of dollars worth of dangerous and potentially lethal prescription pills,” Attorney General Brown said. “This is one more example of how legal medications are being diverted for illicit purposes.”
In February 2009, a San Marcos pharmacist’s suspicions were aroused when a young woman attempted to fill a prescription for 120 Xanax pills. When the pharmacist contacted the doctor’s office to confirm the prescription, he was informed that it was invalid and the woman was not a patient.
The pharmacist subsequently notified the Attorney General’s office, which launched a two-month investigation that culminated in today’s arrests including:
• Sean Christiansen, 24, of Vista for violation of probation, possession of a controlled substance, sale of a controlled substance, and conspiracy;
• Christopher Zenkus, 24, of Poway on 4 counts of commercial burglary, 5 counts of false impersonation, 3 counts of prescription fraud, and 1 count of unlawful possession of a prescription blank;
• Stephen Cleeton, 20, of Poway on 6 counts of commercial burglary, 6 counts of forged narcotic prescription; and 2 counts of unlawful possession of a prescription blank;
• Courtney Morgan, 20, of San Diego on, 11 counts of commercial burglary, 7 counts of forged narcotic prescription; and 4 count of unlawful possession of a prescription blank;
• Erica Peterson, 20, of Del Mar on 4 counts of commercial burglary, 2 counts of forged narcotic prescription; and, 3 counts of unlawful possession of a prescription blank.
Fellow conspirator, Paige Billheimer, 21, of San Diego remains at large. She is expected to be charged with 6 counts of commercial burglary, 1 count of prescription fraud, and 5 counts of forged narcotic prescription.
The investigation revealed that Zenkus had stolen the Drug Enforcement Administration and medical license numbers of a San Diego physician and used this information to order five blank prescription pads that could be used to write 500 prescriptions.
Subsequently, Zenkus, Christansen, and their co-defendants filled fraudulent prescriptions at 11 different pharmacies in the San Diego area, obtaining 1,020 Oxycontin pills with a street value of $55,000; 1,390 Xanax pills with a street value of $7,000; 720 Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone pills with a street value of $5,040; 360 Percocet pills with a street value of $3,600; and 60 Adderall pills with a street value of $180.
In some cases, the defendants would go from pharmacy to pharmacy to fill prescriptions, using their parents’ health insurance to pay for the pills.
Paperwork found in Sean Christiansen’s vehicle detailed indicates that he was earning $31,000 a week through the illegal sale of prescription drugs.
According to the latest Department of Justice “Drug Trends” report, Oxycontin is among the most prevalent medicines obtained fraudulently and is one of the most abused medicines in the United States.
If convicted, defendants face up to 1-5 years in prison.
The Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement’s San Diego Regional Pharmaceutical Narcotic Enforcement Team led the two-month investigation, which also included agents from; California Department of Health Services, California Department of Insurance. The San Diego County Sheriff and San Diego County Probation Department assisted in today’s arrests.
Copies of the arrest warrants are attached.