Updated:POLK COUNTY, Fla.,None —
Polk County detectives have announced a major pill mill bust that involved more than 150 suspects.
Investigators say the owner of the Key Medical Clinic in Winter Haven forged thousands of prescriptions. Then, she and another woman recruited people to fill the prescriptions for
OxyContin and Xanax, investigators said.
The large-scale operation also involved money
laundering, they said.
Wednesday evening, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd
laid out the details of what he called an elaborate pain pill trafficking ring that operated for about 10 months. In that time, detectives believe the criminals involved made between $6 million to $9 million.
Detectives said thousands of pain pills ended up on the streets of Central Florida though fraudulent prescriptions written at the medical clinic.
Investigators said the owner and alleged mastermind was Patricia Osbourn, also known as Dr. Trish, who opened the clinic by simply paying a $96 business permit.
"Was she a physician? Absolutely not," Judd said.
The sheriff said Osbourn was selling fraudulent prescriptions to Elizabeth Sykes.
Sykes is accused of creating a network of recruiters to find people, nicknamed "smurfs," to get the prescriptions filled.
Detectives said the pills went back to Sykes, who then had them sold on the street.
"This lady here, this lady and this lady are responsible for killing people all over the state of Florida by putting this drug on the street," Judd
said, referring to Sykes and Osbourn.
It was an elaborate operation that involved hundreds of
people, he said. So far eight have been arrested.
Investigators are now working to find and charge the rest, and Wednesday, the sheriff had a message for them.
"You shouldn't sleep well
tonight, and don't take any drugs to help you sleep because we're going to put you in the county jail in the next weeks and months as this investigation goes on," Judd said.
The state has been cracking down on pain management clinics, but in this case the operation was running out of a so-called medical clinic, an indication that criminals are changing things up to try to stay ahead of authorities.
The sheriff said his office was alerted to the suspicious activity after local pharmacies reported large
numbers of people coming in around the same time for pills.