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Ten defendants charged with drug trafficking conspiracy alleging prescription drug fraud

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 Forged prescriptions used to obtain highly addictive opioid

SAVANNAH, GA:  Ten people have been charged in a federal indictment alleging a conspiracy to obtain and sell large amounts of opioids through fraudulent prescriptions.

The indictment charges eight men and two women with taking part in a scheme to use forged and fraudulent prescriptions to obtain large amounts of the highly addictive opioid Oxycodone, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. All 10 defendants are charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Oxycodone, which carries a possible prison term of up to 20 years upon conviction.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“As the opioid addiction crisis continues to rage across our nation, law enforcement agencies welcome the assistance of vigilant prescribers and pharmacists in detecting potentially illegal activity,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “This cooperation is vital in battling the damage from illegally obtained opioids.”

A pharmacist in Savannah first raised an alarm in April 2020 when she questioned the authenticity of a prescription for Oxycodone-Acetaminophen and contacted the Savannah Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Savannah Tactical Diversion Squad.  As alleged in the indictment, the conspiracy involves the defendants forging the signatures of at least seven doctors on prescriptions and then filling these fraudulent prescriptions in at least three counties across Georgia – Chatham, Richmond and Columbia.  The indictment alleges that defendants filled more than 25 fraudulent prescriptions to procure in excess of 2,000 pills.

The defendants named in the indictment, and their charges, are:

Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Atlanta Division said, “Addressing the country’s opioid addiction continues to be a top priority for DEA. In this case, the pharmacist’s vigilance was an integral part of this investigation. DEA, its law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will not stand idly by and allow criminals to profit off of the addictions of others.”

“The opioid crisis in this country is real and we are experiencing the harmful effects in this area firsthand.  The alleged actions of these 10 individuals to use forgery and fraud to illegally obtain prescription medication and then funnel those toxins into our community is despicable,” said Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team Director Michael G. Sarhatt. “CNT remains dedicated to identifying and investigating the individuals who are illegally supplying these highly addictive substances to our community. We are working closely with our partner law enforcement agencies to use our collective resources to stem the tide of the addiction crisis impacting this area.”

The case is being investigated by the DEA, the Chatham Savannah Counter Narcotics Team, the Pooler Police Department, and the Savannah Police Department, with assistance from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, and prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew A. Josephson and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Coordinator Marcela C. Mateo.


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