Fifty-six government employees -- including a police officer, a felony court clerk, two corrections officers and 27 school bus drivers and attendants -- were arrested in a scam that used health insurance information to fraudulently obtain prescriptions for the painkiller OxyContin, authorities said Wednesday.
Sixty-two people were arrested in total and all face charges including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and grand theft, according to the Miami-Dade state attorney's office.
Authorities estimate 130 medically unnecessary prescriptions for OxyContin -- more than 12,000 tablets -- were presented to pharmacies. The drugs have an estimated street value of $400,000, prosecutors said.
OxyContin is a popular painkiller, delivering an instant "high" when it is crushed or dissolved and ingested.
The scam began in January 2003, when six "recruiters" enlisted a group of people, most of them employees of local government, to participate in the ring, according to prosecutors.
Those employees provided their health insurance identification information, and with that information they obtained unnecessary prescriptions for OxyContin from another codefendant, who was a physician, authorities said.
The defendants filled those prescriptions at pharmacies and sold the pills for cash to another codefendant, authorities said.
In addition, prosecutors said, the defendants submitted claims to their insurance companies for reimbursement for the OxyContin prescriptions.
"There can never be an excuse for helping put dangerous drugs onto our streets," said Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade state attorney. "When public employees are a part of the problem and when public medical benefits are used to make the scheme work, these are shameful events. They are also crimes."
Among those arrested, according to authorities, were:
- 17 Miami-Dade County Public Schools bus drivers
- 10 Miami-Dade County Public Schools bus attendants
- Six city of Miami Department of Solid Waste employees
- Five Miami-Dade County Public Schools security officers
- Three Miami-Dade County Public Schools custodians
- Two Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation corrections officers
- Two Miami-Dade County Public Schools teacher assistants
- Two Miami-Dade County Transit bus drivers
- One city of Hialeah police officer
- One city of Miami crane operator
- One Miami-Dade County Circuit Court felony clerk
- One Helen B. Bentley Family Health Center driver
- One Miami-Dade County Human Services data entry specialist
- One Miami-Dade County Human Services employee (other)
- One Miami-Dade County General Services Administration employee
- One Department of Children and Families employee
- One former employee of Family Christian Services