Smuggling Ring Used Mexican Pharmacies to Sell Oxycontin and Vicodin

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Authorities in Southern California have arrested 15 people who are accused of being part of a large-scale smuggling ring that operated with a twist – they sent narcotic prescription drugs across the border from California to Mexico.  The drugs were then sold over the counter in Mexican pharmacies to American drug abusers who crossed the border in search of illegal prescription painkillers.  The smuggling ring, which operated for several years, is reported to have netted at least $400,000 in the past six months.

The smuggling process began with Dr. Tyron Reece, a 71-year-old physician who runs a solo practice in Inglewood, a suburb of Los Angeles.  Authorities have discovered that Reece wrote an excessive number of prescriptions for Oxycontin and Vicodin.  In the past year alone, the doctor dispensed prescriptions for over 900,000 pills.  His co-conspirators used the prescriptions to purchase drugs at Dabney’s Pharmacy in South Los Angeles.  The drugs were then delivered to couriers in the San Diego area who strapped pills to their bodies or concealed them in food containers or in the engine compartment of cars and took them across the border into Tijuana.

Before the smuggling ring came under surveillance by U.S. authorities, there was little risk involved in bringing drugs into Mexico.  The operation was profitable for all parties involved.  Large batches of drugs were sold to Mexican pharmacies along the border that operate with little or no regulation.  Pills that cost about $2 when purchased from the pharmacy in Los Angeles were sold to Mexican pharmacies for about $3.50.  American addicts who bought the pills in Mexico paid about $6 to the pharmacy.  
Investigators discovered the smuggling operation when a search of the trash outside the home of a prescription forgery suspect turned up 50 empty hydrocodone bottles with labels from Dabney’s Pharmacy.  Dr. Reece was shown as the prescribing physician.  The arrests were the culmination of a 17-month investigation.  Both Dr. Reece and pharmacy operator Charles Dabney were charged along with several other people who served as couriers.  The leader of the operation, identified as Anthony Wright, is said to have earned $1,000 per day by transporting drugs in rental cars from Los Angeles to San Diego.

U.S. Border Agents who routinely arrest Americans who attempt to bring illegal prescription drugs across the border had wondered about the quantity of prescription drugs that have been available in Mexico.

Although Mexico has been involved for several years in a war against illicit drug cartels, surveys show that Mexico has a very low rate of prescription drug abuse.  According to authorities, the smugglers targeted Mexico because it was easier to unload large batches of drugs at unregulated pharmacies than to attempt to distribute them in smaller batches to American drug dealers.

To learn more about the various types of opiates both illegal and legal on the American Addiction Foundation website.