NEW PORT RICHEY — Last November, the alleged bosses of two prescription drug rings, shipping tens of thousands of oxycodone pills from Florida to Tennessee and Kentucky, were arrested after a two-year investigation.
On Friday, their suspected crews joined them.
U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announced the unsealing of two federal indictments charging 31 people with conspiring to possess oxycodone with intent to distribute. If convicted, his office says, each person could face up to 20 years in prison. Nearly 20 of the suspects were in custody, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said Friday afternoon. The remaining were being sought.
"Pasco County is sending the message: We will not tolerate this," Nocco said.
The case has been investigated by the Sheriff's Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The suspects indicted Friday obtained pills by doctor shopping and paying others for their pills, the DEA said. Assistant special agent in charge James F. DiCaprio said many of the suspects are addicts themselves. In Florida, oxycodone can be bought on the street for $10 a pill, but in Tennessee and Kentucky, they sell for $25-$35 a pill.
"When you mix greed with addiction, it's a very, very bad combination," he said.
The first indictment charges Pasco County residents Brittney Beason, 23; James Bellows, 32; Chris Buchan, 43; Michael Desimone, 23; Heather Garmany, 29; Tim Grace, 27; Jenny Hernandez, 21; Chris Jackson, 21; Mark Lapham, 22; Paul Parker, 43; Karl Polek, 22; Nicole Proctor, 23; Tamara Short, 21; and Scott Vitiello*, 36. According to the indictment, from sometime in 2009 until the present, these individuals were involved in oxycodone trafficking between Florida and Tennessee.
A separate indictment charges Pasco County residents Anthony Maddox, 29; Beverly Gamble, 52; Anthony Freeman, 44; Alex Carraher, 35; Amanda Rizzo, 22; David Ziegel, 21; Heather Janes, 30; Danial Cronkite, 29; Nicholas Baker, 22; Paul Beaupre, 26; Robin Crosson-Palmer, 42; Heidi Chamblee, 48; Kelly Jo Teffner, 44; Michael Castles, 51; Jillian Whitmore, 26; Jo Ann Whitmore, 46; and Hernando County resident Ryan Lutz, 37. From sometime in 2009 until the present, these individuals were allegedly involved in oxycodone trafficking between Florida and Kentucky.
Pasco sheriff's Sgt. William Davis of the agency's pharmaceutical unit said he believes the investigations are working.
"We are making a difference," Davis said. He said he expects more arrests.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.
* Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect a correction. Scott Vitiello's name was misspelled.