(WHAS11) – Prescription drug overdoses kill nearly three Kentuckians a day.
Police say most of the pills that end up sold on the street are brought to Kentucky by drug traffickers who organize monthly road trips to pill mills in Florida, where there is not a current drug tracking system in place.
Plenty of people from Kentucky go to Florida for vacation, but police say increasingly people are coming for a different reason… prescription drugs.
Police arrested David Bascon, Keith Markland, Michael Skeens, Patricia Stacy and Angela Hedges after police say they tried to fill prescriptions for hundreds of Oxycodone pills at a CVS Pharmacy on Taylorsville Road in Louisville.
The prescriptions came from Liberty Medical Group in Jacksonville, Fla.
There, for $250 and an MRI, out of state patients could walk out with drugs they couldn't easily get in Kentucky because of stringent drug tracking laws here.
Angela Hedges, who was an accountant for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, was the alleged ring leader.
Police say she earned more than $10,000 a month organizing Florida drug trips.
The court records show dozens of pages of records from her indicating she paid for doctors' visits, plane tickets, meals, gas and cigarettes in exchange for half of the pills.
Her co-defendant, Patricia Stacy, talked about it to police.
She said during an interview with a detective that she saw four doctors a month in Florida.
Police say the hundreds of pills those on the trips received on each visit sold on the streets for up to twenty times their cost at the pain clinics or pharmacies.
Text messages indicated people back in Kentucky eagerly awaited the arrival of the pills.
“It's moved from people abusing drugs, to people abusing drugs and dying,” said Sgt. John McGuire of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Narcotics Division. “So we're seeing a lot more deaths associated with the drugs coming from out of state.”
“We just go down. Go to the doctor, get the pills and come back,’ said David Bascon in his police interview.
In talking about the appointments with the doctor, Stacy said it wasn’t difficult to get them to write prescriptions for strong painkillers.
“They're already filled out when we get in there or what you got last month. He just signs them and you're out the door,” said Stacy.
After our original story about the drug trips last July, the D.E.A. got involved and they shut down Liberty Medical Group and dozens of other pain clinics in Florida. The problem is, dozens of other ones opened up in their place.
In Jacksonville, there are now more pain clinics than McDonald’s restaurants.
Kentucky tags are spotted often at these clinics and at the pharmacies that fill the prescriptions.
We spoke with William Carter who owns the Park and King Pharmacy.
“We've got a lot of people that have been taking them six or eight years,” he said.
Carter said he started noticing an increasing number of customers coming from the Appalachian region earlier this year.
A new law is expected to soon go into effect in Florida that officials hope will help shut down the pill mills.
Until then, Kentuckians will continue to road trip to Florida only to return with pills that can kill.
All of the suspects in the case eventually pleaded guilty and are either serving their time or are now on probation.
One man arrested told police he took 30 Oxycodone pills each day...nearly a thousand a month.
That habit, without the drug trips, would have cost him $20,000 to support, if he had to purchase those drugs on the street.