CLEVELAND - A 39-count indictment was filed charging seven people from Cleveland and East Cleveland with various offenses related to a scheme to fraudulently obtain thousands of prescription painkiller pills, law enforcement officials announced Tuesday.
Health care fraud and aggravated identity theft charges were also filed against some defendants, who are accused of forging prescriptions for Oxycontin and Percocet pills, hiring people to have them filled at pharmacies throughout the region, then selling the pills on the street, according to the indictment.
"We have seen a huge increase in prescription drug abuse in Ohio and this case demonstrates the lengths people will go to defraud and profit from pills," said Steven Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "Instead of dealers shipping in drugs from South America, we now have people forging prescriptions."
"The abuse of illicitly obtained prescription drugs is reaching epidemic proportions, surpassing that of marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined," said Stephen Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland office. "Dismantling illicit drug diversion networks such as the organization charged in this investigation will remain a top FBI priority."
Those charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute Oxycodone are:
- Louis Eppinger, age 53, of Cleveland
- Patricia Arnold, age 61, of Cleveland
- Anthony H. Perry, age 42, of East Cleveland
- Elizabeth A. Davis, age 40, of East Cleveland
- James Byrge, age 62, of Cleveland
- Judy Burrows, age 25, of Cleveland
- Brittany N. Glass, age 22, of Cleveland
According to the indictment, the following events occurred:
"Between 2011 and 2012, Eppinger, Arnold, Glass, Perry, Davis, Burrows and Byrge engaged in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone;
Eppinger obtained blank prescription paper from an unknown source and DEA numbers of various physicians located in Northern Ohio for the purposes of passing fraudulent prescriptions for Oxycontin and/or Percocet, both of which contain oxycodone;
Eppinger provided the blank prescription paper to Arnold, who forged the prescriptions;
Eppinger then provided the fraudulent prescriptions to Glass, Perry and Davis, who served as "walkers" and attempted to pass the prescriptions at pharmacies in Northeast Ohio, including several in Cleveland as well as locations in Shaker Heights, Willoughby and Garfield Heights;
Glass, Perry and Davis then gave the pills to Eppinger, who paid them for passing the fraudulent prescriptions. Eppinger then sold the pills or provided them on consignment to Burrows, Burge and others;
Eppinger also faces 18 counts of health care fraud for defrauding the Ohio Medicaid program by billing more than $20,000 for prescription painkillers to which he was not entitled, according to the indictment. He is also charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft for using the identities of two people in relation to a felony;
If convicted, the defendants' sentences will be determined by the court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendant's prior criminal record, if any, the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael L. Collyer and Michelle M. Baeppler following investigation by the FBI's Cleveland office, with assistance from the Cleveland Police Department, West Shore Enforcement Bureau, Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Ohio Attorney General's Office.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."