Top 5 Biggest Prescription Drug Smuggling Busts

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

With millions of Americans abusing prescription drugs each year, it’s no surprise that the black market for these pills has become a booming industry.

A single 7.5 milligram pill of hydrocodone can run upwards of $100 in Illinois, while a 2 milligram pill of Xanax can cost up to $220 in California. Painkillers are typically in the highest demand, but stimulants and anti-depressants are also popular among users.

While some drug rings are highly elaborate and can rake in hundreds of millions of dollars, others are poorly planned, at best. Here are five of the biggest and craziest prescription drug busts in recent history.

  • Last February, the NYPD and federal authorities collaborated in shutting down a $550 million Oxycodone drug ring. Twenty-four people, ranging from drug traffickers to shady doctors, were arrested in the drug ring that involved writing up prescriptions for more than five million tablets of the painkiller. Doctors at Astramed Physician Clinics wrote 31,500 “unnecessary prescriptions” between January 2011 and January 2014, while Dr. Kevin Lower reportedly made $12 million off bogus “doctor visits” made by crew members in order to obtain and sell the prescriptions.
  • Two brothers were arrested in 2010 for operating the largest drug ring in the state of Connecticut, stealing roughly $75 million worth in prescription pills. Amaury and Amed Villa broke into a warehouse in Enfield, Conn., and made off with a haul of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. The FBI conducted a three-year investigation before arresting the brothers and 20 others in relation to the drug ring.
  • A Tennessee grandma was arrested last year for being quite possibly the oldest prescription drug dealer in the country. Pearl Jones, 85, was charged last July with selling hydrocodone and other painkillers from her house after police raided her home. She was also charged with selling drugs in a school zone since her home was within 1,000 feet of a school. She has avoided jail time for now, after posting $70,000 bond.
  • Kentucky pulled off its largest prescription drug bust ever in November 2009, issuing felony arrest warrants for 518 people and arresting 322 over the course of two days in 34 counties across the state. The arrest sweep was the culmination of a three-year criminal investigation, with two hundred people arrested in other states. Oxycodone and methadone were the primary substances being sold, but other charges were filed against some of those accused, including money laundering. Several of those arrested would allegedly travel to other states like Florida to pick up prescriptions from pain clinics, then return to Kentucky to sell them.
  • In what is likely a surefire winner for a Darwin Award, a North Carolina woman was arrested for trying to sell prescription drugs to a police officer who had interviewed her just hours earlier on a shoplifting charge. Sarah Elizabeth Price, 21, tried to sell 862 Xanax tablets to an officer in the Havelock Police Department. But even as the detectives at the scene finally identified themselves as law enforcement officials, she reportedly told them, “OK, we’ve got to hurry up, the other detectives are going to be here any minute.” Price was charged with one count of felony sale and delivery of a Schedule IV controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance.


Also Read: America’s Painful Love Affair with Painkillers

Photo Source: istock

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