US Medical Center at Heart of $10 Million Oxycodone Trafficking
A New York doctor, his office manager, and 46 others were arrested last week after an investigation into drug trafficking worth $10 million, according to a press release by the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Also among those arrested were the ringleaders of two drug trafficking networks in the state of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Hector Castro and his office manager, Patricia Valera, were indicted and arrested in connection with drug trafficking across the states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The two are charged separately because Castro and Valera are accused of running simultaneous, but unrelated, drug trafficking schemes out of the same office. Castro is charged with selling 39 illegal prescriptions, while Valera faces 464 charges for the alleged theft of over 150 prescription sheets bearing Castro’s name.
The investigation alleges that pharmacies in New York and New Jersey doled out over 500,000 oxycodone pills based on prescriptions from Castro and Valera’s office between 2009 and 2013. The schemes were originally able to elude suspicion because so many of the prescriptions were being filled outside of New York State; The New York State Department of Health cannot track prescriptions filled out-of-state.
Castro was arrested after an undercover investigation sparked by the overdose death of an individual in possession of a prescription bearing Castro’s name. A lengthy investigation determined that traffickers were visiting Castro’s office and obtaining prescriptions from him. An undercover agent infiltrated a drug trafficking organization receiving prescriptions from Castro and allegedly bought 28 prescriptions from the doctor. According to ICE, the drug traffickers would text Castro the names and dates of birth of the people for which prescriptions were to be made out, tand the doctor obliged.
Valera allegedly did business with the leaders of two rival drug trafficking groups in Pennsylvania. Valera stole blank prescription sheets from Castro, forged prescriptions, and then sold them for around $500 each, according to ICE. As in Castro’s operation, the organized crime groups provided Valera with names birth dates to fill in, and would either pick up the forged prescriptions or would have them delivered. In Valera’s case, long-term provided the information that led to his arrest.
Between the two operations, authorities estimate Castro and Valera sold a combined $10 million in oxycodone prescriptions. ICE did not elaborate on Castro’s use of his illegal cash flow, but suggested that Valera and her husband, who was also involved and arrested in connection with the investigation, used their proceeds for lavish vacations to Cancun, the Dominican Republic, Florida, France and Italy.