Forty nine defendants, including two doctors and five pharmacists, have been charged with participating in an $18 million pill mill scheme, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
Following an exhaustive investigation by the DEA’s Fort Worth Tactical Diversion Squad, 40 of the 49 defendants were arrested last week in “Operation Wasted Daze.” All 49 have been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. The final arrested defendant made her initial appearance in court this afternoon.
“By funneling addictive opioids onto our streets, these medical professionals violated both the Hippocratic oath and federal law – causing harm rather than healing, hurt rather than hope,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “This 49-defendant case represents a significant step in the fight against drug diversion in North Texas, and we appreciate DEA’s commitment to ensuring that all pill mill doctors and conspirators are investigated and shut down.”
“Medical professionals hold the public’s trust to provide what is in the best interests of their patients,” said DEA Dallas Field Division Special Agent in Charge Eduardo A. Chávez. “When this is eroded by supplying diverted prescription drugs to the streets in Fort Worth, DEA Dallas will ensure they are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to the criminal complaint, unsealed today, Dr. Caesar Mark Capistrano, 61, and Dr. Tameka Lachelle Noel, 36, allegedly wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, carisoprodol, zolpidem, phentermine, and promethazine with codeine, knowing the drugs would be diverted to the streets for illicit use.
Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel, assisted by 48-year-old clinic manager Shirley Ann Williams, allegedly used a network of recruiters to enlist “patients” from the community and local homeless shelters. Recruiters paid each “patient” a small fee, usually $50 to $200 cash, to obtain controlled substance prescriptions from Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel. The recruiters – who paid the clinic based in part on the amount of drugs prescribed – then filled the prescriptions at various complicit pharmacies and diverted the drugs for resale on the streets.
At the clinic, many of the “patients” were seen not by the doctors, but by Ms. Williams, who possessed neither a medical license nor a DEA registration. After a perfunctory conversation with the “patient,” Ms. Williams allegedly coordinated with Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel to prescribe dangerous drugs without legitimate medical purpose. In order to make the prescriptions appear legitimate, the doctors occasionally included prescriptions for non-controlled substances, such as antibiotics and mineral ice.
Over a nine-year span, Dr. Capistrano issued prescriptions for more than 524,000 doses of hydrocodone, 430,000 doses of carisoprodol, 77,000 doses of alprazolam, and 2.07 million doses of promethazine with codeine. Over seven years, Dr. Noel issued prescriptions for more than 200,000 doses of hydrocodone, 55,000 doses of carisoprodol, 14,000 doses of alprazolam, and 450,000 doses of promethazine with codeine. Often, the doctors prescribed multiple medications simultaneously and at the highest dosages available.
Medical professionals charged in the scheme include:
- Caesar Mark Capistrano, medical doctor
- Tameka Lachelle Noel, medical doctor
- Ngozika Tracey Njoku, nurse practitioner
Clinic staff charged in the scheme include:
- Shirley Ann Williams, clinic office manager
- Latonya Ann Tucker, office staff
Recruiters charged in the scheme include:
- Ritchie Dale Milligan, Jr
- Wayne Benard Kincade
- Katie Lorane Parker
- Cynthia Denise Cooks
Pharmacists charged in the scheme include:
- Wilkinson Oloyede Thomas, Calvary Pharmacy
- Christopher Kalejaiye Ajayi, Remcare Pharmacy
- Bartholomew Anny Akubukwe, Beco Pharmacy
- Nedal Helmi Naser, Brandy Pharmacy
- Ethel Oyekunle-Bubu, Ethel’s Pharmacy
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
The DEA Dallas Field Division’s Fort Worth Office conducted the investigation, with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, IRS – Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Worth Police Department, and the Arlington Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Montes is prosecuting the case.