Seven members of a drug trafficking ring operating in New York City were arrested on Jan. 23, 2017, for using forged prescriptions for almost five years to obtain supplies of synthetic opioid drug oxycodone for resale. Approximately 160,000 pills with a value of nearly $3 million were sold on the streets of the city during 2011-2017. The average prescription was for 180 oxycodone with a dosage of 30 mg.
The alleged leaders of the drug ring, Joseph Bivona (45) and Steven Keller (53) were arrested at their homes. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), $60,000 cash was also recovered at Keller’s home. The two were charged with major drug trafficking using multiple “runners” whom they recruited from among family and friends to visit pharmacies in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens with forged prescriptions that were traced to a physician’s pain management office in Astoria. The runners filled almost 1,000 forged prescriptions for OxyContin, said DEA.
The physician supplying the prescriptions has not been charged but an investigation has been on since the authorities had traced the forged prescriptions back to his office. According to prosecutors, the traffickers reduced their activities during August when state officials inaugurated the I-Stop program, allowing pharmacies to trace a person’s prescription history before dispensing opioids.
Five of those arrested were charged with drug dealing, drug possession and using forged prescriptions. The deaths in New York state due to synthetic opioid overdose rose 136 percent, from 294 to 668, during 2014-2015.
DEA Special Agent in Charge, James Hunt said that law enforcement agencies would continue to investigate prescription drug rings that contribute to addiction in the community. Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said, “There is a close link between the illegal traffic in pain pills and record numbers of overdose deaths in New York City. We will continue our efforts to identify and prosecute anyone involved in this deadly trade.”
East coast states hit hard by opioid abuse
New York and many other east coast states have been hit hard by opioid abuse. The effects of painkiller oxycodone are similar to that of heroin. At $1 per mg, a container of 100 pills with 40 mg strength has a street value of $4,000. It is available in 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg pills.
The users inhale or inject the contents after crushing the pills that help remove the time-release coating. It is not easy to give up the drug, as it leads to severe withdrawal symptoms. Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen Kazanjian said that many illegal sales stem from Medicaid prescriptions and that the use of the drug is “federally funded drug abuse.”
Addiction to opioids destroys lives. It not only affects organs of the body include the lungs, liver, stomach, intestines and brain, but can also lead to fissures in family relationships, financial ruin and homelessness.
Addiction also affects the society as it leads to increase in crime rate when people become desperate to find cash to finance their addiction. Further, even if people do not know anyone dependent on drugs, their taxes are being used to fight the opioid epidemic. It has not left anyone untouched.
Sovereign Health helps people dependent on opioids. Our patients are thoroughly assessed by experts. Individual treatment plans are designed after evaluating underlying conditions. Patients benefit from individual and group therapy, recreational and cognitive therapy as well as fun outings during the treatment. Call our 24/7 helpline for further information.
About the author
Veronica McNamara is a content writer for Sovereign Health. She is a former registered nurse who enjoys writing about the causes and treatment of addictions and behavioral health disorders. She is a proponent of further public education on the subject of mental illness which, unfortunately, still bears an unwarranted stigma. For more information and other inquiries on this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.