Three More Convicted in National Rx Painkiller Conspiracy

DEA announced that a federal court jury in Cleveland, Ohio, convicted Dr. Terence Sasaki, pharmacist Vinesh Darji, and Audrey Barbara Rovedo on Nov. 15 of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, raising the number of people convicted in the case to 13.

A federal court jury in Cleveland, Ohio, convicted three people of crimes related to a conspiracy that sent millions of dollars' worth of prescription painkillers to all 50 states, said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. The Nov. 15 verdicts raised to 13 the number of individuals who have been convicted in the case, including doctors, pharmacists, and a call-center manager.

Dr. Terence Sasaki, pharmacist Vinesh Darji, and Audrey Barbara Rovedo were convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Sasaki and Rovedo also were convicted on a charge of conspiracy to launder money; Darji was convicted on nine additional counts of unlawful dispensing of hydrocodone, while Rovedo was convicted on 18 counts of the same charge. Their sentencing is set for February.

DEA's news release said Rovedo, 64, is a manager at Delta Health who lives in Jacksonville, Fla. Sasaki, 41, lives in Jersey City, N.J., and Darji, 42, lives in Tampa, according to public records. It says the central figure in the case was James Hazelwood, who pleaded guilty last year to engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise for his role in operating a company that illegally distributed millions of prescription painkillers, including hydrocodone and alprazolam, to drug addicts and recreational drug users who had no medical reason for receiving the pills. Hazelwood, 42, lives in Cumming, Ga., and operated USMeds, LLC and American Health Alternatives; with these companies, he worked with pharmacists and pharmacies who supplied drugs to the organization, which Hazelwood then distributed to people who contacted him through the companies' web sites (including usmedsovernight.com, verybestmeds.com, and mydoctorconsultonline.com) or call centers, with this activity taking place between 2005 and 2009, according to court documents.

Hazelwood controlled most aspects of the drug-trafficking organization, according to the release. It generally charged $300 for 90 tablets of hydrocodone plus a $55 "consult" fee, according to court documents.

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