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29 Busted In Prescription Drug Fraud Ring

10-month investigation involved thousands of pills being put on the street in Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office charged 29 people in “Operation Bad Apple,” a 10-month investigation into a prescription fraud ring that put thousands of Oxycodone pills on the street.

In March 2012, investigators with the Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit learned that dozens of fraudulent prescriptions from Luxor Industries Physicians Group in North Fort Myers were filled at Apple Pharmacy in Englewood between June and August 2011.

During their investigation detectives confirmed that the prescribing physician did not write the prescriptions. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and Department of Health closed Luxor Industries in July 2012 for being an unlicensed pain clinic.

Twenty-two suspects in this case were arrested this week with the help of the North Port Police Department, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Desoto County Sheriff’s Office and FDLE. Five of the suspects were already in custody the Sarasota County Jail. There are outstanding warrants for two others. All but four of the suspects charged in this case have local criminal histories.

Most suspects are from North Port, Venice, Englewood, Port Charlotte and Arcadia.

The only Sarasota resident charged is Edward Tallakson, 36 of 1747 Rita St., according to the sheriff's office.

Charges include Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud and Trafficking in Oxycodone and the suspects are being held on significant bond amounts. If convicted, all but one of these suspects faces either 15- or 25-year minimum mandatory sentences based on the amount of pills they obtained.

“These criminals concocted a scheme that worked for a while but when it ended they moved on to the next one,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “Their arrests should put a dent in the supply of pills that are being abused throughout this community.”

“Where was the red flag when nearly 30 people went to one pharmacy over a two month period, sometimes back to back, and presented nearly identical scripts for 240 pills at a time, many only using the drive through and only paying with cash?” asked Knight. “Someone wasn’t paying attention.”

This investigation is continuing and there will be additional arrests. Anyone with information on this case, or who is concerned about similar suspicious activity, is encouraged to call 941.861.5800 to speak with the Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit.

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