NEW ORLEANS: DEA and federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced unprecedented enforcement action across the states of Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi in an effort to reverse the horrible effects produced by the trafficking and abuse of pharmaceuticals. As part of this effort, dubbed Operation Pilluted, 22 doctors and pharmacists were arrested in the 15-month operation which involved nearly a thousand law enforcement officers across the four states. 280 arrests took place total across the four states as part of the operation.
Operation Pilluted was led by the DEA New Orleans Field Division and utilized intelligence data, information provided by state and local law enforcement, and complaints made by citizens, to identify DEA Registrants and others involved in prescribing, obtaining, and distributing dangerous and addictive controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Xanax. (A Registrant is a person authorized by DEA to prescribe, dispense, and administer controlled substances.) In 2013, approximately 43,982 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, one death every 13 minutes. Nearly 52 percent of those deaths (22,767) were attributed to prescription drugs. Of these, 71 percent (16,235) were attributed to opioid overdoses.
“DEA is committed to reducing the destruction brought on by the trafficking and abuse of prescription drugs through aggressive criminal enforcement, robust administrative oversight, and strong relationships with other law enforcement agencies, the public, and the medical community,” said DEA Special Agent in-Charge Keith Brown. “The doctors and pharmacists arrested in Operation Pilluted are nothing more than drug traffickers who prey on the addiction of others while abandoning the Hippocratic Oath adhered to faithfully by thousands of doctors and pharmacists each day across this country.”
In addition to the arrest of 22 doctors and pharmacists, DEA took action to remove or restrict the ability of the targeted DEA Registrants to prescribe or dispense controlled substances. As part of Operation Pilluted, DEA issued 2 Immediate Suspension Orders and obtained the voluntary surrender for cause of an additional 40 DEA Registrations. (An immediate suspension order immediately suspends the DEA Registration of the doctor or pharmacist pending the outcome of an Administrative Hearing.) DEA is pursuing Administrative Actions which may result in the revocation of additional DEA Registrations.
The doctors and pharmacists arrested were part of a total of 280 individuals arrested on Federal and state charges related to their illegal pharmaceutical trafficking activities. 21 search warrants were executed across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 51 vehicles, 202 weapons, and $404,828 in cash were seized in the operation. 73 seizure warrants were executed which resulted in the seizure of $11,651,565 USC and $6,745,800 in real property.
Utilizing every enforcement and regulatory tool possible, and working closely with state and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies, Operation Pilluted reflects DEA’s mission to identify and target the individuals and organizations responsible for the illicit trafficking of pharmaceutical controlled substances. Drug traffickers and drug seekers have many methods of obtaining pharmaceuticals, from unscrupulous pain clinics, or “pill mills,” prescription forgery and theft, “doctor shopping,” and pharmacy burglary and robbery. DEA is committed to its pursuit of those who violate the law to divert dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, and to working with other law enforcement and regulatory agencies, the public, and the medical and pharmaceutical communities to reduce the availability of illegal pharmaceuticals and the harm they cause.
In addition to DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the four states, other federal participants in Operation Pilluted include FBI, DHS, U.S. Marshals, FDA, ATF, and IRS. State and local law enforcement from each of the four states were instrumental as well.