In an effort to combat the illegal sale and distribution of prescription drugs in their region, the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NFHIDTA) implemented and funded the three and a half month investigation, “Operation Growing Pains”. The Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team (UDEST), the Marion County initiative of NFHIDTA, and the Multi-Agency Drug Enforcement Team (MADET) joined forces and worked the investigation together. Throughout the course of the investigation, undercover drug agents and reliable confidential sources made numerous controlled purchases of prescription pain pills, mostly oxycodone.
During the first 30 days of “Operation Growing Pains”, drug agents purchased 359 prescription pain pills for $3,310. Of the 359 pills purchased, 295 of them contained oxycodone. On average, drug agents were paying $9.22 per pill.
Over the next 45 days of the operation, drug agents purchased an additional 600 prescription pain pills for $7,094. Of the 600 pills purchased, 570 of them contained oxycodone. On average, drug agents were paying $11.82 per pill.
On 11/2/10, drug agents utilized a confidential source to sell 5,000 oxycodone pills to
H/M Roberto Camero in exchange for $20,000. Camero and three additional co-conspirators were immediately placed under arrest after Camero purchased the pills from the confidential source. Agents seized nearly $27,000 in currency, one pickup truck and 50 additional 80 mg oxycodone pills.
On 11/17/10, drug agents kicked off the initial sweep with a “buy bust” operation at a popular eating establishment located in Ocala, Florida. During “Operation Growing Pains”, drug agents coordinated two controlled trafficking purchases of oxycodone from Domingo Alexy Ferreira. Throughout the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Ferreira was utilizing this local restaurant as his primary location to sell his pills. Ferreira would direct his buyers to the location and sometimes solicit patrons. Unbeknownst to the management, Ferreira would keep his pills in his vehicle and complete the transactions in the parking lot. Ferreira was placed under arrest and found to be in possession of 118 oxycodone pills and a small amount of cocaine. Ferreira’s vehicle was also seized.
During “Operation Growing Pains”, drug agents made several purchases out of houses in the Dunnellon, Florida area. Drug agents obtained eight search warrants and utilized the Marion County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team to serve them. Four search warrants were served on 11/18/10 and four more were served on 11/19/10.
18th of November Search Warrants
17820 SW 45th Place, Dunnellon, Fl.
4002 SW 186th Court, Dunnellon, Fl.
3600 SW 181st Court, Dunnellon, Fl.
21538 SW Peach Blossom St, Dunnellon, Fl.
19th of November Search Warrants
19830 SW 109th Place, Dunnellon, Fl.
19897 SW 107th Lane, Dunnellon, Fl.
5154 SW 181st Court, Dunnellon, Fl
4401 SW 181ST Court, Dunnellon, Fl.
Drug agents also made numerous controlled pill purchases from several pill distributors in the Fort McCoy area of the Ocala National Forest. On December 8th, armed with nearly 25 arrest warrants, drug agents went from house to house and made more than a dozen arrests.
“Operation Growing Pains” was a huge success in Marion County. The 3 ½ month investigation resulted in 58 people being either arrested and/or charged with a variety of
pill related criminal charges and led to the seizure of:
910 oxycodone pills
456 Roxicodone pills
160 hydrocodone pills
106 Soma pills
94 methadone pills
81 Xanax pills
6 morphine pills
In addition to the pill seizures, agents also seized approximately $30,000 in currency, 2 vehicles, ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana.
In years past, UDEST concentrated their investigative efforts towards more conventional street drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
The overall success of “Operation Growing Pains” has identified a new threat within our community. Seasoned drug agents were even caught off guard at how easy it was to purchase these powerful pain pills in Marion County. Many of these veteran officers are comparing the current pain pill crisis to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is a serious threat to Marion County’s quality of life and measures are being put in place to combat this new epidemic in 2011.
Oxycodone is a powerful opium based narcotic used to relieve moderate to severe pain and has twice the potency of morphine. Roxicodone and OxyContin are two of the most popular and recognizable brand names of pain pills containing oxycodone. Oxycodone can be highly addictive and withdrawal symptoms are similar in nature to withdrawal symptoms that a heroin addict might experience.
Without health insurance, a 30 mg oxycodone pill would cost $4 each at a pain management clinic. The current street price of a 30 mg oxycodone pill in Marion County is averaging $15. Street value of a 30 mg oxycodone pill in Ohio and Kentucky is $25-$30 a piece.
A person convicted of illegally possessing, selling or distributing 4 grams, but less than 14 grams, of an opium based narcotic faces a 3 year minimum mandatory prison sentence. A person convicted of illegally possessing, selling or distributing 14 grams, but less than 28 grams, of an opium based narcotic faces a 15 year minimum mandatory prison sentence. For those who are convicted of illegally possessing, selling or distributing more than one ounce of an opium based narcotic faces a 25 year minimum mandatory prison sentence.
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