Defendants Allegedly Sold False Prescriptions for the Drugs
WASHINGTON—Three people have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges stemming from their roles in conspiracies to distribute oxycodone and methadone, engage in health care fraud, and launder the illegal drug proceeds.
The indictment, returned May 1, 2012, was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Patrick E. McFarland, Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management; and Michael S. Barcus, Special Agent in Charge for the Washington Region of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General-Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.
Monifa S. Ahmed, 39, and Derrick Byas, 43, both of Capitol Heights, Maryland, were arrested May 2, 2012. Carolyn Nolan, 59, of Brentwood, Maryland, the mother of Monifa Ahmed and an employee of the U.S. Department of Labor, was arrested the following day. All have appeared in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and pled not guilty to the charges.
The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and methadone, conspiracy to engage in health care fraud, and conspiracy to launder drug trafficking proceeds. Each offense carries a maximum possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million, along with significant forfeiture of assets and criminally derived proceeds.
Oxycodone is the active ingredient in a controlled substance prescription required pain killer commonly marketed as a pharmaceutical called oxycontin. Methadone is also a powerful prescription required pain killer, which also has some medical value in treating heroin addiction.
The indictment charges Ahmed, Byas, and Nolan with leadership roles in the conspiracy. According to the indictment, Ahmed, while employed as an office manager of a medical office and pain clinic, took blank prescriptions and prescription pads from her employer physician without his knowledge and approval. She provided the prescriptions in blank or with a forged doctor’s signature to others, including those charged with her, who in turn would present them to various pharmacies in the area.
In the event that a pharmacist would call to verify the prescription, Ahmed was present in the office and would verify the prescription as authentic even though it was forged and invalid.
The group is charged with presenting 133 false and forged prescriptions. They allegedly made money selling the prescriptions to others, or presenting the prescriptions to be filled and then selling the medication, which was almost always oxycontin. The group sometimes recruited persons with Medicare health insurance benefits to pay for the cost of filling the forged prescriptions. In Nolan’s case, she is charged with using a health insurance plan funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, to pay for the pills.
The group took advantage of a large and lucrative market in illegally obtained painkillers like oxycodone. Abuse of prescription-required painkillers, like oxycontin, has emerged as a significant national health threat. The Centers for Disease Control and the Drug Enforcement Administration announced in November 2011 that “prescription painkiller overdoses are a ‘silent epidemic’ killing more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined.” The National Survey of Drug Use and Health reported that “one in 20 people in the United States aged 12 or older—12 million people—reported using prescription painkillers non-medically in 2010.”
An indictment is merely an allegation that defendants have committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty in a court of law.
The prosecution grew out of the efforts of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency team that conducts comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the nationwide program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
In recent years, investigations by this task force have led to the arrests and indictments of dozens of people from drug organizations that operate in the Washington, D.C. area.
This case was investigated by the Health Care Squad of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, as well as the Office of Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Labor. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Dominguez, who presented the case to the grand jury.