PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth Police Chief Rob Ware, Detroit law enforcement, and federal agents all gathered in Detroit Wednesday to announce 13-count superseding indictment which charges 44 new defendants with a drug conspiracy involving prescription drug controlled substances such as OxyContin, Opana, Vicodin and other drugs.
Health care fraud charges were filed against 32 of the defendants, while three defendants were charged with money laundering and three defendants were charged with being felons in possession of firearms.
Among Scioto County residents named in the 13-count indictment were distributors William Ashley Smith, a.k.a. “Cash,” of Portsmouth, Robert Scott Dials, 25, of Portsmouth, Cherish Lewis, 26, of Wheelersburg, Josh Barnes, 33, of Wheelersburg, and Nathan Reed, a.k.a. “Reed,” 31. Also indicted were Willie David Jackson, a.k.a. “Lil’ Dave,” 24, of Eastpointe, Michigan, Lance Hatten, 29, of Columbus, and electronic transfer nominee Garland Holman, 30, of Detroit.
U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley III, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge Gilbert Salinas of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Explosives, Lamont Pugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, Acting Special Agent in Charge William Hayes of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Detroit Police Chief Chester Logan, and Ware.
“This is exactly the pipeline (Michigan to Portsmouth),” Ware told the Daily Times in an exclusive interview after the indictments were handed down. “We’re not the only city being distributed to, but this is a distribution system. These people they went after, they were tracing it back to Detroit from Portsmouth. This is the supply line for Portsmouth. Is it the only supply? I don’t know but it’s definitely a major component of it.”
Ware said the area residents named in the indictment were pretty much the couriers or the receivers of the drugs. He said the local individuals named in the indictment should turn themselves in immediately.
“To insure a higher likelihood of getting a bond, they should turn themselves in to local or federal people so they can appear in U.S. Federal Court,” Ware said. “If they don’t turn themselves in, and they have to be tracked down, the likelihood of them getting bond is reduced.”
McQuade said health care fraud charges were filed against 32 of the defendants, while three defendants were charged with money laundering and three defendants were charged with being felons in possession of firearms. Owners of home health agencies, would provide kickbacks, bribes, and other illegal benefits to physicians to induce them to write prescriptions for patients with Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Patients were recruited into the scheme by patient recruiters or “marketers,” who would pay kickbacks and bribes to patients in exchange for the patients permitting the pharmacies and physicians to bill their insurance for medications and services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided.
Several pharmacies, managers and pharmacists in Michigan were named in the indictments. Others were charged with money laundering.
“The merger of health care fraud and drug trafficking is a disturbing trend that is not only robbing taxpayers, but also fueling addictions to prescription drugs,” McQuade said.
Ware referred to the cooperation by the various agencies as “an outstanding effort.” He said other communities in places such as Huntington, W.Va., and several cities in Kentucky will also benefit from the indictments.
“From my agency all the way up to the Detroit Police Department, over to the federal agencies that were involved in the investigation, they have no idea how appreciative our community is going to be in the sense of justice for all of the problems we’ve had over the last decade with prescription pills and the loss of loved ones,” Ware said. “That collaboration and cooperation between agencies at the local, state and federal level, epitomizes what law enforcement should be about.”
The investigation in this case was handled by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Explosives, Detroit Police Dept., Portsmouth, Ohio, Police Dept., Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Detroit Violent Crimes Task Force and Michigan State Police.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Terrence R. Haugabook, Michael Martin, and Wayne F. Pratt. They will be assisted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Grey and Gjon Juncaj of the Forfeiture Section.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.