Doctor charged as head of oxycodone ring

An investigation in New York has led to the arrest of a doctor as the head of a major oxycodone trafficking scheme. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Dr. Hector Castro, his office manager, Patricia Valera and several others were in charge of a ring responsible for the distribution of approximately half a million oxycodone pills worth at least $10 million.

Castro became a person of interest in 2011, after New Jersey authorities discovered a prescription bottle with his name on it at a scene where a person had suffered a fatal oxycodone overdose. After the overdose, investigators noticed that Castro was writing a large number of prescriptions for oxycodone. According to court records, approximately 500,000 oxycodone pills were dispensed in New Jersey pharmacies based on thousands of prescriptions written by Castro in his Manhattan office from September 2011 to February of this year. To put that number in perspective, pharmacies in New York dispensed 75,000 oxycodone pills based on approximately 600 prescriptions between August 2009 and January 2013.

Castro is facing 39 counts of illegal sale of a controlled substance and, if convicted, he could see significant prison time.

Prescription drug crimes carry serious penalties

Over the past few years, the illegal sale and distribution of prescription medications - particularly drugs like oxycodone - has emerged as a serious issue across the U.S. As a result, the DEA and local law enforcement agencies have stepped up efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes involving prescription medications.

In Illinois, individuals may not unlawfully possess, deliver or manufacture prescription medications. In addition, it is illegal to have unauthorized possession of or to tamper with an official prescription tablet. Illinois law also requires physicians and pharmacists to follow rules with respect to the proper prescribing and distribution of prescription medications.

The Illinois Controlled Substances Act outlines the penalties for possession of controlled substances. Under the Act, prescription medications such as oxycodone, Codeine, Vicodin and others are classified as Schedule II, III or IV substances. The unlawful possession of these substances is a felony, which means that conviction can carry a sentence of longer than one year. The unauthorized possession of a prescription pad - including the unauthorized alteration of a prescription form, the unauthorized possession of a blank form or the possession of a prescription not issued by a licensed prescriber - is also a felony and carries with it the possibility of hefty fines.

If you are facing charges for the unlawful possession of prescription medication or any other drug crime, contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help explain your options.