MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced Thursday, October 16th state and federal charges against 51 people in total related to the illegal distribution of pharmaceutical controlled substances in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.
The following 47 individuals were charged by the Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee or Washington County District Attorneys’ Offices, with the majority of the individuals being charged in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties:
The following individuals were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin:
These four people, charged federally, are said to be the ringleaders in this scheme.
The arrests were part of a year-long investigation conducted by the DEA Tactical Diversion Squad Task Force in conjunction with numerous Milwaukee area law enforcement agencies.
The investigation targeted a loosely organized group responsible for manufacturing fraudulent prescriptions, then recruiting individuals to fill the fraudulent prescriptions at local pharmacies. These individuals were then either paid in cash or retained some of the pills.
Many of these individuals also utilized their individual insurance programs to fill the fraudulent prescriptions.
Almost all of the fraudulent prescriptions were for oxycodone, a powerful Schedule II controlled substance.
Once filled, the pills were then returned to one of the group’s main distributors - usually the individual responsible for creating the fraudulent prescription - who then illegal sold the pills for approximately $.50-1.00 per milligram around the greater Milwaukee area. It is believed that this organization produced and filled approximately 196 fraudulent prescriptions accounting for over 25,000 pills.
"The Brown Maki organization is alleged to be responsible for producing approximately 196 fraudulent prescriptions accounting for over 25,000 oxycodone pills," Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said.
Those pills have a street value of around $300,000.
The DEA Tactical Diversion Squad Task Force was created over one year ago in response to the nationwide and statewide abuse of prescription drugs. The TDS Task Force targets individuals and organizations that are responsible for the diversion of pharmaceutical drugs into the illegal market.
"I've had the opportunity over the last month to visit any number of our suburban communities and they are suffering from opiate addiction and particularly heroin addiction that is often times predominately caused initially by exposure to prescription opiates," Chisholm said.
"It`s estimated that one in 20 adolescents and adults, about 12 million people, probably understating the statistical impact of this, have used prescription pain medication when it was not prescribed by a doctor for them," James Santelle, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin said.
These individuals charged are facing charges ranging from misrepresentation and delivery of a controlled substance to medical assistance fraud and possession of narcotic drugs.
The TDS Task Force is comprised of DEA Special Agents, DEA Diversion Investigators, and Task Force Officers from the Greenfield Police Department, Milwaukee Police Department, Racine Police Department, and Wisconsin Department of Justice.
“Prescription drug abuse continues to be one of the most significant drug problems throughout the United States and in Wisconsin. Nationally, prescription drug abuse is responsible for more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Through a number of different initiatives, like the DEA Tactical Diversion Squad Task Force, DEA and our law enforcement partners are working together to keep prescription controlled substances in the hands of those it is medically prescribed for under the legitimate care of a physician. Those found guilty of diverting pharmaceutical controlled substances from legitimate use are no different than a typical drug dealer and will be dealt with the same," James Bohn, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Milwaukee District Office of the DEA said.
“The number of deaths in this community related to prescription drugs has risen significantly in recent years. That is why I have dedicated a prosecutor solely to handle prescription drug related offenses. It is important to have a robust law enforcement response to this problem, and I am grateful to Assistant District Attorney Patricia Daugherty, the professionals at the Drug Enforcement Administration and our other local law enforcement officers for their dedication to this sweeping and successful investigation," Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said.
“These arrests of individuals, premised on both federal and state charges, reflect the strong, coordinated focus of all law enforcement units on identifying, investigating, and apprehending those people who compromise the safety, the security, and the health of our community by trafficking in illegal pharmaceuticals. The problems associated with the abuse of these drugs by adults and youth alike are staggering—and all of our offices are targeting pill distribution and related conduct broadly and aggressively. Through our coordinated criminal, civil, and administrative processes, we will continue to stop the individuals and the companies that obtain, sell, transfer, and otherwise deal in fraudulently prescribed pharmaceuticals of the sorts that are the focus of today’s highly effective law enforcement work," James Santelle, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin said.
The DEA TDS Task Force worked closely with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin; and the Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington County District Attorneys’ Offices while conducting the investigation. In addition, DEA received assistance from numerous area police departments including the Greenfield PD, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the Milwaukee PD, Racine PD, Menomonee Falls PD, Shorewood PD, Waukesha County Metro Drug Unit, Milwaukee Metropolitan Enforcement Group, and the U.S. Marshals Service.