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AL takes part in 'Operation Pilluted' to fight prescription drug trafficking

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The largest-ever prescription drug operation in U.S. history has netted 22 doctors and pharmacists, as well as some 300 others, over the course of a 15-month, joint federal-state operation, said DEA and federal prosecutors Wednesday.

Dubbed "Operation Pilluted," the raids were carried out in four southern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Nearly 1,000 state and federal law enforcement officers worked together to stem the tide of trafficking and abuse of pharmaceutical drugs.

Federal investigators used multiple sources of information provided by state and local law enforcement, as well as citizen complaints, to identify those involved in prescribing, obtaining, and distributing dangerous and addictive controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Xanax. 

U.S Attorney George Beck said these "drug dealing doctors" would be prosecuted to the fullest extent.  "When unscrupulous doctors take money under the table, file false medical reports, hire people to recruit patients to file false medical reports the federal government and state and local officials have no choice but to investigate", Beck explained. 

Governor Robert Bentley spoke to reporters about the prescription pain pill epidemic while holding his DEA card, used to prescribe narcotics.   "When doctors chose to over-prescribe narcotics, and they knew these patients are abusing, they go from being a doctor to a drug dealer", Bentley said - calling these physicians an embarrassment to the profession. 
In 2013, approximately 43,982 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, one death every 13 minutes. Nearly 52 percent of those deaths (22,767) were attributed to prescription drugs. Of these, 71 percent (16,235) were attributed to opioid overdoses.

“DEA is committed to reducing the destruction brought on by the trafficking and abuse of prescription drugs through aggressive criminal enforcement, robust administrative oversight, and strong relationships with other law enforcement agencies, the public, and the medical community,” said DEA Special Agent in-Charge Keith Brown. “The doctors and pharmacists arrested in Operation Pilluted are nothing more than drug traffickers who prey on the addiction of others while abandoning the Hippocratic Oath adhered to faithfully by thousands of doctors and pharmacists each day across this country.”

In addition to the doctors and pharmacists arrested, another  280 individuals were arrested on Federal and state charges related to their illegal pharmaceutical trafficking activities. 21 search warrants were executed across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. 

Authorities seized 51 vehicles, 202 weapons, and $404,828 in cash. There were also 73 warrants executed that resulted in the seizure of $11.6 million in cash and $6.7 million in real property.

In addition to DEA and the U.S. Attorney's Offices in the four states, other federal participants in Operation Pilluted include FBI, DHS, U.S. Marshals, FDA, ATF, and IRS. State and local law enforcement from each of the four states were instrumental as well.
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