The process, as described in a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday in Dallas, was simple. Recruiters would pay homeless people -- including residents of The Bridge shelter in downtown Dallas -- a fee, often $30, to visit a doctor's office. The indigent recruits were given instructions on how to get a prescription for painkillers and money, usually between $125 and $500 to pay for the visit. When it was over, the prescription was given to the recruiter, feds say.
The recruiters were given $15 for each prescription mule they recruited by the ring's leaders, who proceeded to fill the prescriptions and distribute the drugs, often in Louisiana. Some recruits were paid extra to pick up their prescriptions themselves, before giving the pills to the ring leaders. Thirty milligram oxycodone pills were then sold by the ring for $22 each, while hydrocodones went for $5, according to a statement by a Houston-based member of the distribution ring obtained by federal investigators.
Eventually, after multiple runs to Louisiana with thousands of pills, the drug ring ran into trouble when it made contact with an undercover DEA undercover task force officer and a federal informant living at The Bridge.
One of the defendants charged in the indictment, Fahim Khan, met with the DEA officer at a medical clinic in Channelview on August 8, 2013, the feds say. Khan told the undercover officer that he could get him a prescription for 10 milligram oxycodone pills. The officer paid the clinic $420 and never met with a doctor. Later the same day, Bertha Garcia, another alleged member of the ring, met the officer at a gas station in San Jacinto and allegedly gave him 90 10 milligram oxycodone pills.
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Later that week, on August 14, another alleged co-conspirator -- William Hopkins -- recruited the resident of The Bridge who was working as a confidential informant. The informant, feds say, was given $130 to pay for a visit to the McAllen Medical Clinic in Dallas. He, like the DEA officer, never saw a doctor. He was told to complain of back pain, tell the staff he'd been visiting the clinic for four months and ask for hydrocodone and oxycodone. The informant was allegedly paid $30 for going to the clinic and was told he would be given $40 to go to the pharmacy the next day.
Khan, Garcia, Hopkins and their 20 co-defendants have been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, punishable by a maximum of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine, and 26 counts of unlawful use of a communication facility, punishable by a maximum of four years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.