Fla. Removes Internet-based ‘Pill Mills’

December 16, 2005

The arrests of three South Floridians on charges they operated unlicensed Internet-based “pill mills” have been announced by Attorney General Charlie Crist and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell.

Authorities are still seeking two other suspects for their involvement in the operation. Investigators said the defendants’ operation filled nationwide orders for powerful painkillers and other controlled medications without prescriptions or pharmacists.

The three suspects were picked up in sweeps throughout Miami-Dade County by members of the Florida Diversion Response Team, a multi-agency task force composed of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Health and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Arrested were Kenneth Hall, 39, of Hollywood, Sandra Montes de Oca, 51, of Miami, and Giovanna Gomez, 30, of Hialeah. Two other suspects, Adrian Johnson, 43, of Pembroke Pines, and Aida Ramos, 48, of Hialeah, are still at large. Bonds for the defendants have been set at $1 million each.

The investigation revealed that New Day Pharmacy and Best International Pharmacy, both located in Miami, were being used as pill processing centers for controlled substances including hydrocodone, alprazolam and phentermine, without the legally required supervision of a pharmacist. Both locations were receiving the drugs from wholesalers, then processing internet orders for the controlled substances and shipping the drugs from the pharmacies’ Miami bases.

Investigators say that Ramos was the president of Best International Pharmacy and Montes de Oca was the owner of New Day Pharmacy. Both companies employed Johnson as a worker and Hall as a consultant, while Gomez was an employee at Best International Pharmacy. Investigators estimate the total value of the drugs seized from both pharmacies at more than $750,000.

The defendants will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. Each defendant is charged with conspiracy to commit trafficking in hydrocodone, filling or dispensing prescriptions or dispensing drugs without a pharmacist license, forgery of a prescription or legend drug label and the repackaging, delivery or sale of adulterated or misbranded drugs.

If convicted of all charges, Hall and Johnson face a maximum sentence of 160 years in prison while Ramos, Montes de Oca and Gomez each faces a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison. The charges carry a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison.

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