Investigation Leads To 20 Arrests For Drug Dealing
By Space Coast Daily // April 11, 2013
Sophisticated Operation Based In Palm Bay
BREVARD COUNTY • PALM BAY, FLORIDA – A tip to agents with the Palm Bay Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit three years ago resulted in a joint state and federal investigation that ended Thursday with the arrest of more than 20 suspects who now face charges involving trafficking in oxycodone and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
Under the state and federal guidelines each suspect could face as much as 20 years in prison if convicted.
Palm Bay Public Information Officer Yvonne Martinez said the investigation began in 2010 when agents with the Palm Bay Special Investigations Unit received information involving a possible illegal pill distribution operation.
She said agents investigated the tip and discovered additional information. Over the course of approximately two years, the agents unraveled what appeared to be an illegal drug ring that stretched far outside Palm Bay’s borders.
Further investigation revealed two primary suspects who acted as “ring leaders.”
Based upon the local investigation, Martinez said it was determined that the “ringleaders”, identified as Edwin Morales of Palm Bay, 51, and Raphael Rivera of Palm Bay, 39, would pay people to pose as patients, travel to pain management clinics around the state and obtain prescriptions for pain medications, specifically oxycodone and dilaudid.
The prescriptions were then filled at select pharmacies. Once the scripts were filled the pills were then distributed within central Florida.
“This investigation and the joint efforts by all involved, demonstrates that we will do whatever necessary and deploy all available resources at any level to fight the problem.” Palm Bay Police Chief Doug Muldoon
Martinez said it was later learned in July 2012 through contact initiated by the U.S. Postal Service that the pills were also being mailed to Massachusetts.
“At that point we contacted the DEA due to the federal nature of the case,” said Sgt. A. Sacco who oversees the department’s Special Investigations Unit. “We then learned that there were ties to Puerto Rico as well.”
Morales and Rivera paid family members, friends and other willing participants to travel to Florida from Puerto Rico, visit the pain clinics for prescriptions and then fly them home. The joint investigation unraveled a sophisticated operation that involved tens of thousands of dollars in cash profits from the sale and distribution of thousands of pills.
It’s believed the group netted anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000 per month from the operation.
“Abuse of prescription pills is the driving force behind a majority of crime in today’s world,” said Palm Bay Police Chief Doug Muldoon. “This investigation and the joint efforts by all involved, demonstrates that we will do whatever necessary and deploy all available resources at any level to fight the problem.”
An 10-month investigation was conducted by the DEA Orlando TDS and Palm Bay Police Department with the assistance of the DEA Springfield Resident Office, the DEA Ponce Resident Office, the Internal Revenue Services, the U.S. Postal Services and the Florida Department of Health.
The Orlando TDS consists of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, Oviedo Police Department, Orlando Police Department, Winter Park Police Department, Winter Springs Police Department, Altamonte Springs Police Department, Casselberry Police Department, Maitland Police.
Martinez said this investigation is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, and the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.