A Little Rock doctor and 18 others were charged Wednesday in a federal indictment as part of a continuing Drug Enforcement Administration national initiative to target illegal pharmaceutical drug activity.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the indictment charges Dr. Richard Jones, 49, of Little Rock and 18 others in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
The operation was in White, Pulaski and Lonoke counties.
Dr. Johns was charged in Lonoke County on May 18 for similar offenses.
In that arrest he was charged with 187 counts of fraudulent practices.
The investigation began in November 2014 when detectives responded to an overdose death of a person in Cabot.
The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office asked for assistance from the DEA and the agencies began a joint investigation into the doctor.
That investigation determined that 187 fraudulent prescriptions had been filled since July 24 with the intent to be distributed in Lonoke County alone.
Those prescriptions totaled around 16,830 oxycodone pills with a street value of $505,000.
During the investigation, it was determined that Dr. Johns was part of a distribution network spanning into White and Pulaski counties also.
Detectives say he would write oxycodone prescriptions in people’s names, selling them for $500 each.
Coconspirators would bring the names and dates of birth to Dr. Johns so they could buy a prescription.
He would issue the prescription without examining the person and in many cases never meeting them.
According to the press release, the prescriptions were filled at local pharmacies and the oxycodone tablets were sold in the community for $30 each.
Several people admitted to purchasing fraudulent prescriptions from Dr. Johns since 2011.
“As alleged in the indictment, the doctor writing these fraudulent prescriptions is no different than a common, street-level drug dealer on the street, and should be treated as such,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Christopher Thyer said. “As a society we have granted certain health care professionals the right to prescribe and use highly addictive drugs to treat their patients. When that right is abused, we will aggressively pursue those health care professionals as the criminals that they are. I am pleased that this doctor and his network have been stopped, and this office will continue to target the doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care providers who illegally allow these dangerous and highly addictive drugs to end up on our streets.”
The effort named Operation Pilluted began in January 2014 and was an aggressive campaign to target the largest sources of illegally diverted pharmaceuticals in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
In May, the DEA announced the return of two indictments charging 46 defendants, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, with the distribution of drugs in the Central Arkansas area.
In total, Operation Pilluted in the Eastern District of Arkansas has led to six federal indictments charging 113 people, including five doctors.
“Prescription drug abuse is an extremely serious problem, not just in Arkansas, but nationwide,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration Joseph Shepard said. “DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate professionals in the medical field who operate as drug peddlers. Those persons who disregard their ethical and legal obligations while dispensing pharmaceuticals will be forced to bear the consequences of their actions.”
The other defendants in this case, all charged with conspiracy to distribute a schedule two controlled substance, are:
David Larue Scroggins, 56, Cabot
Marissa Donann Scroggins, 29, Cabot
Christopher David Scroggins, 36, Cabot
Donna Michelle Cearns, 28, Cabot
Vanessa E. Byrd, 29, Ward
Randy James Byrd, 28, Ward
James Jason Washam, 38, Scott
Jerri D. Washam, 33, Scott
Christine Marie Zeman, 46, Lonoke
Megan Brooke McConnell, 25, Judsonia
Gregory Chase McConnell, 24, Judsonia
Aron Scot Cochran, 26, Searcy
Scotty Wayne Ferren, Jr., 25, Searcy
Jason Ray Beaudry, 29, Searcy
Dustin R. Bullock, 27, Searcy
Charles Lester Mason, 69, Searcy
Joshua David Ringer, 29, Searcy
James Vernon Spiker, Jr., 28, Judsonia
Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone is punishable by up to 20 years in prison with a possible fine of up to $1,000,000 and no less than 3 years supervised release.
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