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Joint Agency Anti-Prescription Fraud Operation Nets 40 Arrests

Authorities arrested suspects in Pasco, Pinellas and Hernando counties.

Law enforcement officers arrested about 40 suspects in a tri-county operation that targets prescription pill trafficking, authorities announced Monday.

Dubbed "Operation No Appointment Necessary, Phase 2," the effort targeted 72 people, mainly suspects accused of passing fraudulent prescriptions.

The targets were suspects in Pinellas County cases, but they live in either Pinellas, Pasco or Hernando counties. 

"The majority of the ones we are looking for today happen to be in Pasco," said Cecilia Barreda, spokeswoman for the .

On Monday morning, law enforcement arrested 13 people at large. Another 28 people targeted were already in custody.

Most suspects were located in West Pasco. Authorities did not release  specifics on who was arrested.

The roundup was staged from the New Port Richey Police Department.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Countywide Diversion Task Force, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and the New Port Richey Police Department were involved in the investigation.

It was the second roundup to stem from a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigation conducted last year. The investigation showed more than 400,000 oxycodone 30-milligram tablets were obtained through fraud between October 2009 and July 2010.

The total combined street value, conservatively, of the oxycodone was $4 million, said Capt. Robert Alfonso, of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. 

The investigation revealed the presence of an organization, Alfonso said. The top tier has been dismantled, he added.

The investigation put about 700 suspects on the radar of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Alfonso said.

“You’re dealing with organized crime,” Afonso said. “...You’re dealing with sophisticated individuals.”

The initial Pinellas Sheriff's Office investigation was followed up by a roundup, called "Operation No Appointment Necessary" on March 8, 2011, that was headquartered in Dunedin. The operation resulted in 66 arrests, Alfonso said. Some of the targets died, he said.

Nearly seven people on average die from prescription pill use every day in Florida, according to a state report that identified what drugs were identified in deceased people.

Alfonso and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, who has made pill crimes a priority for his administration, said they wanted to educate the public and the Legislature about the problem.

A , also known as E-FORCSE in the state, started collecting information Sept. 1, and the program can be used starting in October.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office assisted with both roundups.

“This part of an ongoing investigation,” said Nocco, who was appointed in April.

“I can tell you our detectives and deputies are on the offensive."

Daphne Taylor Street September 27, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Nice reporting, Alex! Thanks for the coverage --Daphne

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