Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Dismantling of International Prescription Drug Trafficking Scheme
LOS ANGELES -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced 15 arrests in a large-scale U.S.-Mexico prescription drug trafficking organization that used its proceeds to fund criminal activity in the United States.
The California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement initiated the investigation after conducting numerous border stops of members of the drug trafficking organization, some of whom were validated gang members. The group would acquire wholesale quantities of controlled pharmaceutical drugs, such as OxyContin and Hydrocodone, smuggle the drugs to Mexico where they were sold, and then smuggle the cash back into the United States to finance their criminal operations.
“Prescription drug diversion is a growing challenge for law enforcement, and one increasingly coordinated by well-funded criminal organizations,” said Attorney General Harris. “The people of California are safer now that our brave law enforcement officers have disrupted and dismantled this prescription drug diversion network.”
Anthony Wright, the leader of the organization, boasted that he earned $1,000 a day for the several years the operation was running. In the San Diego area, the organization brought upwards of $400,000 into the United States from Mexico in just a six-month period.
Since 2009, numerous border stops have been conducted on members of the drug trafficking organization, resulting in the seizure of approximately 1,288 OxyContin pills and 9,500 Hydrocodone pills, with an estimated street value of $78,000.
Wright, the primary source for this drug trafficking organization, frequented Dabney’s Pharmacy in South Central Los Angeles, which is believed to have provided large quantities of Hydrocodone and other controlled substances pharmaceuticals without reporting the transactions to the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. This pharmacy has failed to report filling any scheduled prescriptions to the state’s prescription monitoring program since November 2009, as required by state regulations. Agents also believe Wright acquired significant amounts of pharmaceutical controlled drugs by utilizing a large network of individuals to obtain prescriptions in return for money.
The controlled substance pharmaceutical drugs were acquired from San Diego, Riverside and Los Angeles counties through drug diversion programs, and prescription and insurance fraud. The pharmaceuticals were then smuggled into Tijuana, Mexico, where they were sold to illicit pharmacies. The traffickers smuggled the money back into the United States and used it to continue financing criminal activities.
Additionally, approximately $66,200 has been seized from members of the drug trafficking organization upon re-entry into the United States and Fatina Hicks and Derrick Belser were arrested on felony warrants for the transportation of controlled substances pharmaceuticals.
Five federal indictments were unsealed today, and earlier this month nine felony arrest warrants were issued by the Los Angeles and San Diego District Attorney’s offices.
Other agencies participating in the investigation include Homeland Security Immigration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, the Los Angeles and San Diego Counties District Attorney’s Offices, the California Department of Health Services, California Board of Pharmacy, and Los Angeles Police and Oceanside Police Departments, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, California Medical Board, Drug Enforcement Administration and the LA County Sherriff’s Office.