Kusserow’s Corner: Arrests in New York Members of Pharmacies Burglary Ring

I recently wrote on the growing prescription drug abuse epidemic.  One aspect of this problem is widespread burglaries of pharmacies where perpetrators seek controlled drugs for sale in the open street market.  Crimes of this type are in evidence all across the country.  It has been estimated that over the last three years more than 1800 pharmacy robberies and burglaries have taken place.  The DEA is quoted as saying that “thieves are overwhelmingly taking oxycodone painkillers like OxyContin or Roxicodone, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin and Norco”. These are both narcotics are highly addictive.

This was the subject of a major national news story on NBC News by Chris Hawley in June of 2011 wherein he provided a detailed report on what he described as a “wave of pharmacy robberies that were sweeping the United States as desperate addicts and ruthless dealers turn to violence to feed the nation’s growing hunger for narcotic painkillers.”  He provided a number of cases around the country and cited comments from victims and government agencies that speak to an epidemic of crime.  It has become the focus of enforcement attention by both local and federal agencies.  The arrests noted here is further evidence of the extent of the problem.

On October 30, 2013, charges and arrest warrants against 13 members of a “burglary ring” were unsealed in New York. All but two of the charged persons are now in custody. The burglary risk is alleged to be responsible for more than 125 burglaries and attempted burglaries of pharmacies in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn since 2010. The charges allege this burglary ring went to extreme lengths to break into pharmacies across New York City in order to steal controlled prescription drugs and money from numerous victim pharmacies.  These stolen drugs were then sold on the street to feed the great demand for these controlled substances.  This is result of a joint FBI and NYPD investigation.

The burglaries involved the entry and attempted entry into pharmacies through ceilings, walls, window bars, and doors. In some instances, the victimized pharmacies were in locations that provided cover for the defendants while they penetrated the exteriors of the pharmacies with crowbars, axes, and other tools. In others, the pharmacies were adjacent to commercial establishments that the defendants broke into and then used tools to enter the pharmacies through common walls. The members of the Burglary Ring wore dark clothing, including hooded sweatshirts, masks, and gloves, and employed sophisticated planning and counter-surveillance techniques to avoid apprehension. They frequently circumvented or disabled burglar alarms and surveillance cameras.  By communicating by cell phone with each other and with lookouts that were monitoring police scanners during the burglaries, they were able to escape the pharmacies with the stolen goods and cash before law enforcement was able to apprehend them.

The Indictment seeks the forfeiture of several luxury cars used by the defendants to commit the burglaries and purchased with proceeds of narcotics trafficking, including a Bentley, which was captured on surveillance video being used by some of the defendants as a getaway vehicle during several recent pharmacy burglaries, and several Mercedes-Benz vehicles and a BMW.

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2013 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.