Miami-Luken, a wholesale medicine dealer from Ohio, has been accused of participating in a painkiller conspiracy.
The Need for Charges
On Thursday, July 18, Cincinnati prosecutors brought criminal charges against Miami-Luken drug distributor as well as its two former administrators. They were accused of cooperation with pharmacies and physicians to distribute millions of highly addictive painkillers in the States of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
That is the second accusation in the three-month period that the federal prosecutors made against the distributor, its former manager Anthony Rattini, and compliance officer James Barclay. The goal of the charges is to prevent an outbreak of painkiller prescriptions. That is a bolder and more combative attitude than the one adopted in 2007. At the time, the Justice Department started employing both administrative and civil proceedings in order to bring medicine distributors to trial. Benjamin C. Glassman, a U.S. Attorney, explained that it was necessary to press charges immediately in order to prevent any fatal cases.
The grand jury charged Rattini, Barclay, as well as the company itself for consciously distributing strong opiate painkillers for non-medical purposes. The accused company closed down in late 2018.
Besides the distributor and its employees, two more pharmacists were also accused. Dewonna Miller-West and Samuel R. Ballengee, owners of two drug stores in West Virginia, supposedly accepted millions of dangerous medicines. All defendants may receive a 20-years prison sentence.
The accusations allege that Miami-Luken neglected indisputable proof that the medicine was redirected to illegal consumers and dealers in the 2011–2015 period. The federal prosecutors explained that the distributor addressed almost 4.9 million painkillers to Miller-West’s pharmacy in Oceana, a West Virginia town whose population amounts to 1,394. Besides, over 6 million medicines were sent to Tug Valley Pharmacy owned by Ballengee. The pharmacy is located in Williamson, a West Virginia town inhabited by around 2,800 people. The drugstore is defunct now.
U.S. Attorney Glassman stated that numerous deaths by overdose were discovered. Those deaths may possibly be associated with the behavior of the conspiracy participants. However, investigators did not acquire satisfactory evidence in order to press immediate charges.
The conspiracy participants illegally became rich by distributing enormous amounts of narcotic medicines to established pill mills. Even though DEA issues some warnings to conspirators, they proceeded with their illegal actions. What’s more, in 2008, the distributed delivered over 750,000 painkillers to a doctor despite the fact that DEA investigated the doctor for illegal medicine distribution. Eight years later, a doctor based in Wheelersburg, Ohio, purchased huge amounts of oxycodone from the distributor. Miami-Luken refused to investigate the suspicious purchase.
The federal law states that all wholesalers must supervise the progress of regulated substances and inform the DEA if they observe anything that might signify the medicines are redirected to the black market. However, numerous companies neglected that obligation due to an increase in profit.
Miami-Luken, now a defunct mid-sized medicine distributor, used to deliver drugs to over 200 locations in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The use of opioids is epidemic in these states.
Back in April 2019, a U.S. attorney based in New York accused Rochester Drug Cooperative, yet another drug distributor, of employing that plot against the wholesaler in the medicine supply chain. In 2017, the DEA wanted to press charges against McKesson Corp. officials. The corporation, which the largest medicine distributor in the area, was accused of receiving suspicious purchases from pharmacies across the U.S. However, federal prosecutors dismissed the charges against the corporation. Instead, the Justice Department punished it with a $150 million fine.
It is alarming that, according to previously unrevealed DEA information, medicine distributors imbued the U.S. with 76 billion opiate pills in the 2006–2012 period.