DEA Busts $3M Prescription Forgery and Drug Trafficking Scheme

Article

Seven individuals were arrested and indicted for their involvement in a prescription forgery scheme aimed at illicitly obtaining narcotics for resale.

Seven individuals were arrested and indicted for their involvement in a prescription forgery scheme aimed at illicitly obtaining narcotics for resale. The defendants include 2 alleged leaders, Joseph Bivona and Steven Keller, who are being charged with operating a prescription forgery and drug diversion ring in New York City, according to a statement from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

According to the DEA, Bivona and Keller allegedly used “runners” to fill fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions at pharmacies in Queens and Brooklyn. More than 930 prescriptions were filled and over 160,000 pills with a street value of nearly $3 million were dispensed. Runners illegally obtained narcotics for resale on the black market. The defendants adjusted their illicit methods following the 2013 “I-Stop” program, New York’s enhanced Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, which aimed at tightening restrictions on controlled substance prescriptions.

The ringleaders ran the alleged scheme from December 2011 to January 2017. They employed family members and friends as runners, and paid them in cash for filling prescriptions. The runners presented prescriptions with the name of a physician who operates a pain management practice in Astoria, New York, despite never having been to see this physician. Individual runners typically filled up to 8 oxycodone prescriptions in 1 month, and each prescription was generally written for 180 pills of 30 mg oxycodone, until the implementation of I-STOP regulations caused the prescriptions to lessen.

The alleged ring operators and 5 runners are charged with conspiracy in the fourth degree, criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree.

Reference

Seven Arrested in Major New York City Prescription Forgery Ring [news release]. New York. DEA’s website. https://www.dea.gov/divisions/nyc/2017/nyc012317.shtml. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.

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