FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Authorities have taken down an alleged prescription drug trafficking ring in South Florida.
Federal, state and local agencies were involved in the investigation, leading to the arrests of seven people, including a pharmacist. Several of the suspects appeared in a Broward County courtroom Thursday morning.
"This criminal organization used fraudulent and illegal tactics to obtain massive quantities of prescription opioids to peddle for profit," Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement.
The FBI, DEA, Broward Sheriff's Office and Sunny Isles Beach Police Department collaborated on the investigation that lasted nearly two years.
According to investigators, the alleged ringleader of the operation, Alexander Grichener, 65, sought out patients willing to use real personal information for a specific doctor's office and created fake aliases for the patients to use at other clinics to obtain opioid prescriptions.
One of the suspects, Olga Alterman, 49, worked at the North Dade Wellness Center in North Miami. She is accused of helping the group obtain prescriptions. Investigators said she accepted payment from the drug dealers in exchange for the phony prescriptions.
Investigators said Vera Orenshteyn, a 48-year-old pharmacist, illegally filled the prescriptions at a Kmart pharmacy in Boca Raton and delivered the pills to the members of the group instead of to the straw patients.
The suspects allegedly gathered the prescription drugs at an office site to distribute throughout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Others charged are Ronald Diaz, 46; Roman Grichener, 37; William Washington and Alberto Zisman, both 58.
Washington was described by authorities as a drug runner who sold pills as far away as Detroit. In fact, most of the oxycodone and ocymorphone pills were resold on the black market, authorities said.
All seven are charged with drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit drug trafficking.
"Criminal operations like this are helping fuel the opioid crisis that is claiming 17 lives a day in our state," Moody said. "But, I promise you, I will continue to do everything within the power of the Florida attorney general's office, including working with our great state and federal partners, to stop the illegal flow of these highly addictive drugs and end this crisis ravaging our state."