Clinic director among 27 in EBR charged in massive DEA operation
BATON ROUGE - Federal authorities announced more than 280 people face charges for illegally distributing prescription drugs across the south, including the director of a rehab and detox clinic in Baton Rouge.
The Drug Enforcement Administration's "Operation Pilluted" spent 15 months tracking the pill trade and involved nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.A total of 280 people, including doctors and pharmacists, were arrested on federal and state charges for illegal pharmaceutical trafficking activities.
The DEA said 21 search warrants were executed during the operation across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. From those, 51 vehicles, 202 weapons, and $404,828 in cash were seized. Another 73 seizure warrants were executed which resulted in the seizure of $11,651,565 cash and $6,745,800 in other property.
U. S. Attorney Walt Green said as part of the operation a federal grand jury indicted 49-year-old Shanta Barnes of Baton Rouge, who was the program director of Louisiana Health and Rehabilitation Options. The indictment accuses Barnes of stealing patient information in order to get and distribute thousands of prescription drugs and get reimbursement through Medicaid.
"The abuse of prescription drugs is a growing epidemic which has destroyed too many lives and families," Green said after details of the operation were released Wednesday. "This is another great example of this district's law enforcement community coming together at all levels - federal, state, and local - to tackle a serious crime problem."
Baton Rouge Police said a ring of 26 people were also accused of stealing physicians' information and using it to make fake prescriptions. The drugs obtained through those forgeries were then distributedy b the ring throughout the Baton Rouge area. Police said the ringleader, Luvada Poindexter of Central, got hold of more than $700,000 worth of drugs this way, and is still at large.
The U. S. Attorney's Office said prescription drug abuse contributes to nearly 40,000 deaths and $200 billion in health care costs each year. Green said agents went after every part of the supply chain, including people running "rogue pain clinics."
Besides the DEA and U. S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, the operation involved agents from the 19th JDC District Attorney's Office, the 18th JDC District Attorney's Office, the Baton Rouge City Police Department, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, the Louisiana State Police, the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.
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