Authorities put a stop to alleged Detroit drug ring.
Authorities in the tri-county Michigan area of Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties have apprehended 19 individuals involved in a $41 million opioid distribution scheme. Among those arrested were medical personnel and pharmacists from a dozen cities. The list of alleged offenders includes:
John Henry Rankin, III, 46, of Detroit
Dr. Beth Carter, 56, of Southfield
Dr. Robert Kenewell, 52, of Auburn Hills
Dr. Jason Brunt, 50, of Clawson
Dr. John Swan, 30, of St. Clair Shores
Nurse practitioner Jean Pinkard, 63, of Farmington Hills
Nurse practitioner Toni Green, 58, of St. Clair Shores
Fitzgerald Hudson, 60, of Southfield
Virendra Gaidhane, 49, of Troy
Pharmacist Maksudali Saiyad, 65, of Troy
Pharmacist Adeniyi Adepoju, 61, of Warren
Pharmacist Ali Sabbagh, 36, of Dearborn Heights
Robert King, 38, of Taylor
Jermaine Hamblin, 36, of Roseville
Sonya Mitchell, 50, of Southfield
Lavar Carter, 56, of Southfield
Robert Lee Dower Jr., 49, of Eastpointe
Denise Sailes, 51, of Detroit
Dewayne Bason, 28, of Detroit
The group of offenders, investigators say, prescribed controlled substances, such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet), hydrocodone, hydrocodone-acetaminophen and promethazine with codeine cough syrup, to patients for no apparent medical need. They are facing charges of illegally distributing almost 2 million pills.
Investigators contend in the three-year period between September 2017 to June 2020, Rankin, the owner of New Vision Rehab and Preferred Rehab, both in Warren, paid four doctors (Carter, Kenewell, Brunt and Swan) and two nurse practitioners (Pinkard and Green) to write opioid prescriptions for patients who didn’t need them. Rankin also paid Hudson, who wasn’t licensed to prescribe controlled substances or practice as a physician, to issue pre-signed prescriptions in the names of other practitioners.
Prescriptions for the addictive substances were taken to and filled at Detroit New Hope Pharmacy, Synergy Pharmacy in Clinton Township, Nottingham Pharmacy in Detroit, Crownz Medical Pharmacy in Warren and Franklin Healthmart in Southfield.
Gaidhane is the owner of Detroit New Hope Pharmacy, where Saiyad worked as a pharmacist and Bason worked as a pharmacy technician, officials said. Bason also worked as a pharmacy technician at Synergy Pharmacy and Gaidhane is the owner of Nottingham Pharmacy, according to court records, which also show Adepoju was a pharmacist at Crownz Medical Pharmacy and Sabbagh was a pharmacist at Franklin Healthmart.
“Some of the pharmacists would bill insurance companies, including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, to dispense the pills, even though they were medically unnecessary,” indicate court records. “Those billed to the government-run programs Medicare and Medicaid exceeded $146,000. The pharmacists would also accept cash from recruiters for filling and dispensing medicine.”
“Prescription drugs are supposed to go to people who truly need them, not to fake patients or people selling drugs on the streets,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “We are focusing on charging doctors, pharmacists and the networks that add to the opioid crisis, and this case is unfortunately yet another example of the serious problem facing Michigan.”
Rankin’s primary role was to run the day-to-day operations of the facilities including the collection of cash for the drugs and recruitment of offenders. Carter, Kenewell, Brunt, Swan, Pinkard, and Green were all licensed by the state to practice medicine and authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe controlled substances.
“Each of those prescribers knowingly prescribed prescription drug controlled substances outside the course of legitimate medical practice and for no legitimate medical purpose, in furtherance of the scheme,” the indictment states.