Attorney General Brown Announces Takedown of Los Angeles County Prescription-Drug Ring
LOS ANGELES—California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the takedown of a drug-trafficking organization believed to be responsible for stealing the identities of local doctors to write false prescriptions for more than 11,000 pills of highly addictive drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin.
“Prescription drug fraud is becoming a street crime problem and is growing more and more prevalent in California,” Attorney General Brown said. “What we’re finding now is that it’s no longer individual addicts obtaining a few prescription drugs; there are dangerous criminals running these underground organizations.”
In August 2007, special agents with the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) teamed up with the Simi Valley Police Department to investigate Ricky Washington, known to police for his violent history, gang-affiliation, and previous-drug trafficking arrests. The 12-month investigation revealed that Ricky Washington and associates had stolen the identities of eight doctors, which they used to illegally write prescriptions. The drug-trafficking group also stole the identities of dozens of innocent citizens, designating them as “patients” in order to fill the fraudulent prescriptions. The drug ring obtained thousands of Oxycontin pills, as well as other dangerously addictive prescription drugs like Vicodin.
Agents served multiple arrest warrants and two search warrants at residences in Palmdale. Members of the drug ring arrested today included Josalyn Morales, Beverly Carter, Richard West, Danesha Bentley, Natassha Diaz, Phylicia Mitchell and the group’s leader, Ricky Washington. Law enforcement officials seized evidence that the drug ring was planning to steal the identities of even more doctors and other individuals. The charges include:
• Transportation of a controlled substance
• Possession for sale of controlled substance
• Obtaining a controlled substance by fraud
• Conspiracy on all above listed charges.
As demand increases for prescription drugs, illegal prescription-drug markets are luring violent, organized crime members. California is at the forefront of developing technology that makes it more difficult for criminals, like Washington, to operate prescription-drug rings. The California Department of Justice, in coordination with the Bob and Alana Pack Foundation, has created a new, real-time, prescription drug database. The database tracks information about all prescription drugs dispensed in California and is a powerful tool for law enforcement to combat prescription-drug trafficking.
According to the latest Department of Justice “Drug Trends” report, Valium, Vicodin, and Oxycontin are the most prevalent pharmaceutical drugs obtained fraudulently. Vicodin and Oxycontin are the two most abused pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.