A registered nurse from Florida is the first person to be sentenced to prison in connection with the illegal operation of an online pharmacy that distributed narcotics across the country, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. ALI LOVINS, 44, of Cooper City, Florida is a registered nurse and was the office manager for Discount Pharmacy. Today LOVINS was sentenced to three years in prison, three years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and will forfeit $313,360 in drug proceeds. LOVINS pleaded guilty in April 2015 to four felony counts: conspiracy to distribute controlled substances by means of the internet; conspiracy to distribute controlled substances; conspiracy to launder money; and conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones noted LOVINS was part of a conspiracy that distributed more than a million tablets of narcotic drugs, but noted that unlike a street drug dealer “you don’t have to be in the dark alleys… you don’t have to look in the sunken eyes of an addict… and there was no danger of the drug deal going bad.” Judge Jones noted that prescription drug addiction contributes to the “epidemic of heroin abuse in this community.”
“As a registered nurse this defendant played a key role in the scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “She lied about the online business in order to keep the drugs flowing. As a nurse she knew the drugs she was selling were feeding addictions, destroying families and contributing to the opioid epidemic we are dealing with today.”
The internet pharmacy distributed drugs to some 200 customers in Washington State between 2009 and 2012. The pharmacy shipped hundreds of thousands of pills of hydrocodone, phentermine, alprazolam (Xanax) and codeine (Tylenol 4) to people across the country who did not have valid prescriptions for the narcotics. The conspiracy brought in more than $9 million in revenue from the sale of pills during the three year scheme. The pharmacy operated four internet sites through which they solicited customers and allowed customers in Washington State to order drugs. According to the indictment, the conspiracy would continue to refill prescriptions even if no valid prescription existed. In some instances the conspirators simply looked for a physician in the same geographic area as the customer, with a similar sounding name and filled the prescription using the physician’s DEA number without the physician’s knowledge. The pharmacy charged as much as ten times the usual price for the medications.
The conspirators laundered the proceeds of their sales through a brick-and-mortar pharmacy in Florida called Discount Pharmacy of Pines. In June 2012, the DEA seized the conspiracy’s websites, computers, and drug inventory.
“This individual blatantly abused her professional status as a registered nurse by facilitating the fraudulent and reckless prescription of highly addictive pharmaceuticals,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis.
All but one of the defendants who were indicted in May 2014 have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing:
· The originator of the scheme, JUAN GALLINAL, 48, of Pembroke Pines, Florida is a former police officer from Virginia. He is scheduled for sentencing in October 2016.
· JORDAN TRUXELL, 26, of Davie, Florida served as the registered agent for Discount Pharmacy dba frontierpharmacies.com. He is scheduled for sentencing in May 6, 2016.
· THOMAS BROOKE, 54, of Cooper City, Florida was the bookkeeper for Discount Pharmacy. He is scheduled for sentencing on March 18, 2016.
· CRAIG GREER, 43, of Hollywood, Florida, a former police officer, worked to promote the internet pharmacy scheme. He is scheduled for sentencing on April 8, 2016.
· KEVIN KOGAN, 48, of Cedar Park, Texas, set up the websites and servers for the online pharmacy, and attempted to hide the conspiracies databases from investigators. He is scheduled for sentencing April 8, 2016.
· JERRY DELMAN, 83, of Miami, Florida, a pharmacist who ostensibly oversaw the prescriptions going out the door to customers is being evaluated for a medical condition that could impact his ability to participate in a trial.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the Portland Tactical Diversion Squad which is comprised of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Portland Police Bureau. Substantial investigative assistance was provided by the Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) – Florida, and DEA Miami Field Division.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mike Lang, Francis Franze-Nakamura and Brian Werner.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Public Affairs Officer Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov