Additional Co-Conspirators Charged in Prescription Diversion Scheme
Miami, FL (STL.News) A South Florida grand jury has charged five additional defendants for their alleged roles in a sophisticated scheme to purchase and distribute millions of dollars in diverted pharmaceutical drugs. A total of 14 defendants have now been charged in this case (19-cr-20674).
Diverted pharmaceutical drugs are branded medications, produced by the original pharmaceutical developers, that make their way into the underground market through fraud, pharmacy burglaries, and cargo thefts. Diverted pharmaceuticals typically are high-priced medical drugs used to treat conditions such as mental illness, human immunodeficiency (HIV), and cancer.
The Second Superseding Indictment returned on June 10, 2021, charges South Florida residents Stephen Manuel Costa, 37, Leah Solomon, 51, Rafael Angel Romero, 50, Ruben Reynaldo Rodriguez Diaz, 43, and Phoenix, Arizona resident David Ramirez Garcia, Sr., 58, with money laundering, mail fraud and violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. It is alleged these defendants and their earlier charged co-conspirators purchased large quantities of diverted pharmaceutical drugs on the unregulated, underground market at a cost well below normal wholesale prices Then, they used seemingly legitimate wholesale companies and fraudulent paperwork to introduce the diverted drugs back into the legitimate marketplace by selling them to unwitting pharmacies and consumers at big mark-ups, it is alleged. According to the Second Superseding Indictment, the operation was so large that co-conspirators purchased two wholesale pharmaceutical companies and chartered a plane to deliver the drugs.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez, FBI Miami Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations’ (FDA-OCI) Miami Field Office Special Agent in Charge Justin Fielder announced the charges.
Costa, Romero, and Rodriguez Diaz were arrested this morning and will have their initial appearance this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lauren Louis, who sits in Miami. Garcia Sr. and Solomon will have their initial appearances on later dates.
The prosecution was part of Operation Southern Hospitality, one of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking and money laundering enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.
FBI Miami and FDA-OCI Miami Field Office investigated this case, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern District of California, the District of Arizona, and the Western District of Washington, the United States Secret Service in Miami, FBI’s Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle Field Offices, the U.S. Marshal’s Service in Miami, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution in Fort Lauderdale, and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank Tamen and Walter M. Norkin of the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture.
An indictment contains mere allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.