[symple_googlemap title=”” location=”1818 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA” height=”300″ zoom=”13″]

Authorities in Southern California and Texas on Tuesday arrested five people linked to a Los Angeles-based drug trafficking ring that sold prescriptions for cash and obtained pills for sale on the black market.

Those arrested include the operators of the now-closed Southfork Medical Clinic, who allegedly sold unneeded prescriptions for drugs including oxycodone — best known by the brand names OxyContin and Percocet; hydrocodone – – commonly sold under the brand names Vicodin, Norco and Lortab; alprazolam — otherwise known as Xanax; carisoprodol — a muscle relaxant sold under the brand name Soma; and promethazine with codeine — cough syrup sold on the street as “purple drank” and “sizzurp.”

A doctor at Southfork, 1818 S. Western Ave., wrote prescriptions “while acting and intending to act outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose,” and Southfork employees forged another doctor’s handwriting and signature on faked prescriptions, according to the 33-count indictment in the case.

The doctor employed by Southfork during the alleged conspiracy, Madhu Garg, issued more than 10,000 prescriptions — with nearly 80 percent of those for hydrocodone or alprazolam, most of which were at the maximum dosage — over a 15-month period, according to records maintained by the State of California.

The conspirators used Los Angeles as a base of operations to acquire and deliver bulk shipments of prescription drugs to Texas, according to the indictment.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of multiple drug loads, including a January 2013 seizure of nearly 10,000 pills from the residence of ringleader Jagehauel Gillespie, and a July 2010 seizure of 48 bottles of promethazine with codeine from a car being driven across Texas by Gillespie and another defendant.

“Los Angeles is a major source of the deadly and addictive prescription drugs that are diverted to street sales across the Western United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “This case in the latest in a series of prosecutions clearly demonstrating that law enforcement is committed to stemming the tide of drugs being diverted to the black market, as well as putting an end to medical professionals who abuse their prescription pads and their ethical obligations.”

Two other defendants named in the indictment were being sought, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The indictment describes multiple undercover operations. In an October 2013 meeting at Southfork, Gillespie agreed that Garg would prescribe oxycodone and promethazine with codeine for an undercover cooperator in exchange for the person returning to the clinic with bottles of the prescribed cough syrup, prosecutors said.

Later that day, Garg allegedly gave the undercover agent prescriptions for those drugs, and Garg agreed to issue more prescriptions later that week under a different patient name. Six days later, Gillespie gave the undercover agent forged prescriptions for oxycodone and promethazine with codeine using another doctor’s name and medical license number, according to federal prosecutors.

“These arrests demonstrate law enforcement’s continuing intolerance for those who are simply drug traffickers operating behind the thinly veiled guise of a medical practice,” said Anthony D. Williams, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency in Los Angeles. “Dr. Garg and her employees brazenly wrote and distributed thousands of illicit prescriptions with no legitimate necessity, allowing a countless number of highly addictive prescription opioids to hit the streets of Los Angeles and Texas.”

The five arrested this morning are:

— Jagehauel Gillespie, 39, of Houston, the operator of Southfork who allegedly charged flat fees of up to $500 for prescriptions and who will face up to 149 years in federal prison if he is convicted;

— Dr. Madhu Garg, 63, of Glendora, the medical doctor who wrote prescriptions at Southfork, allegedly without any medical necessity, before the Medical Board of California revoked her license in late 2013;

— Diane Nunez, 24, of Long Beach, who oversaw day-to-day operations at Southfork;

— Daniel Clay, 45, of Houston, who allegedly shipped controlled substances from Southern California to Texas; and

— Ray Steven Benton, 56, of Baldwin Hills, a “capper” who recruited patients to obtain prescriptions at Southfork.

The two fugitives currently being sought are:

— Jessica Poe, 32, of Inglewood, Gillespie’s girlfriend, who allegedly forged a doctor’s signature on prescriptions; and

— Joseph Tyree Boyance, 35, whose whereabouts are presently unknown, a “capper” who recruited patients to obtain prescriptions at Southfork.

All seven defendants are charged with conspiring to distribute narcotics, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Additionally, each defendant is charged in at least one substantive count of distributing a controlled substance, charges that could increase a prison term if they are convicted.

In addition to the drug counts, Garg is charged with money laundering for allegedly wiring drug money  to an account in Kuala Lumpur.

Benton is charged with firearms offenses, and Gillespie and Benton are charged with using fake identities and fraudulent driver’s licenses at Los Angeles-area pharmacies.

City News Service

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