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Three Doctors and Nine Others Indicted in Multistate Internet Pill Mill Conspiracy.

CLEVELAND, April 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio; Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Detroit Field Division; and Jose (Tony) A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office, announced today that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging twelve individuals and two companies with conspiring to traffic pharmaceutical drugs (specifically, hydrocodone and alprazolam) over the Internet, drug trafficking, conspiring to launder the proceeds of such drug trafficking, money laundering, and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.

James Hazelwood, age 39, of Cumming, Ga.; Julie Toennies, age 36, of St. Louis; Audrey Barbara Rovedo (Barbara Rovedo), age 61, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Dr. Dora Fernandez, M.D., aka Dora Fernandez-Montalvo, aka Dora Montalvo, age 35, of Pontevedra, Ponce, P.R.; Dr. Terence Sasaki, M.D., age 37, of Jersey City, N.J.; Vinesh Darji, age 39, of Tampa, Fla.; Bruce Liddy, age 53, of Lakeland, Fla.; Helen Kann, age 50, of Atlanta, Ga.; Jennifer Ryan, aka Jennifer Ryan Nelson, age 32, of Cumming; Diego Fiorillo, age 33, of Metairie, La.; Stephen Derks, age 41, of Marietta, Ga.; and Dr. Edward Cheslow, age 50, of New York City, were charged in the 37-count indictment. USMeds, LLC, which is Hazelwood's company, and Brennan & DePaoli, Inc., dba Delta Health (Delta Health), which is owned and controlled by Barbara Rovedo and her husband, were also charged.

Count one of the indictment charges Hazelwood, Toennies, Rovedo, Fernandez, Sasaki, Darji, Liddy, Kann, Ryan, Fiorillo, Derks, Cheslow, USMeds, LLC and Delta Health with conspiring to distribute hundreds of thousands of powerful and addictive controlled substance prescription painkillers (primarily hydrocodone products, such as Vicodin and Lortab) and anti-anxiety pills (primarily alprazolam products, such as Xanax) illegally, via the internet, to customers located in the Northern District of Ohio and throughout the United States. Customers accessing the internet selected the type, strength, and quantity of the drug that they wanted to purchase from the defendants. Using the veil of a drug order falsely characterized to be a "prescription," the defendants facilitated a brief telephone "consultation" and approved the customer drug orders. The defendants then either shipped the requested drugs directly to the customer or shipped the customer a paper prescription to fill at a local pharmacy not associated with the drug trafficking organization. Customers were charged a greatly inflated price (eight to 10 times retail) when the controlled substance was shipped directly. The defendants charged the customer an inflated "consultation" price (more than a three-fold increase) when it supplied them with paper prescriptions.

Count two of the indictment charges Hazelwood, Toennies, Kann, Rovedo, Fernandez, Sasaki, Fiorillo, Delta Health and USMeds with conspiring to launder the proceeds from the illegal Internet-based drug trafficking operation (1) knowing that they were engaging in monetary transactions in criminal derived property of a value greater than $10,000, and/or (2) with the intent to promote the carrying on of the illegal drug trafficking operation, and/or (3) knowing that the transactions were designed in whole or in part to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, or the control of the illegal drug trafficking operation.

Counts three through 22 charge individual direct distributions of hydrocodone as outlined in the attached chart.

Count 23 charges Hazelwood, Toennies, Rovedo, Fernandez, Derks, and Darji with the direct distribution of 60 tablets of alprazolam between Sept. 19 and Sept. 25, 2006.

Counts 24 through 36 charge Hazelwood, Kann, and USMeds, LLC, with laundering money by depositing the criminally derived proceeds from the drug trafficking conspiracy, in amounts greater than $10,000 (batched money orders and other funds), into financial institutions.

Count 37 charges Hazelwood with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise by unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally engaging in a continuing series of federal drug violations, in concert with at least five other persons whom Hazelwood organized, supervised, or otherwise managed, and from which Hazelwood obtained substantial income and resources.

Mr. Dettelbach stated, "Prescription drug abuse is escalating, and today's actions signify our commitment to fighting it by targeting the sources. Whether the source is an internet pharmacy of national scope or a local dentist, we are committed to closing down pill mills that illegally distribute those drugs."

The investigative agencies participating in this investigation are the DEA, the IRS and the Medina County Drug Task Force.

If convicted, the defendants' sentences will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendants' prior criminal record, if any, the defendants' role in the offenses and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

The indictment was presented to the grand jury by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebecca Lutzko and Edward Feran.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 15, 2010
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