“Pill Mill Operator Convicted” Is The Headline, But Was It a Victory For the State?

money%20and%20pills.jpgSometimes it takes some knowledge of how prosecutions generally work to see through press releases and newspaper articles touting big victories by the government. The State of Florida issued a press release yesterday regarding the conviction of a so called “pill mill” operator on charges including adulteration and misbranding of drugs related to the internet sales, without a prescription, of $10 million dollars worth of drugs including controlled substances.
The scheme sounds pretty nefarious. Abel Rodriguez was convicted for his role in setting up pharmacies that didn’t operate except to purchase drugs from wholesalers and passing those drugs on to bought the drugs from wholesalers and then sent the drugs to co-conspirators who then sold the drugs out of warehouses via the internet without a doctor’s prescription.
Generally, you would expect the individual to be charged, as most are in these types of cases, with charges more severe than misbranding and adulteration, which under Florida law at the time were lower level felonies and had previously been misdemeanors. However, a review of the court docket indicates that in fact Mr. Rodriguez was charged with not only drug trafficking, but also racketeering, one carrying mandatory minimum imprisonment and the other with sentences up to thirty years in prison.
What the article and press release do not disclose is that those charges were dismissed by the court. Therefore, the victory was likely not as great as the State and federal government probably anticipated when they charged Mr. Rodriguez in 2005. Of course Mr. Rodriguez is certainly looking at possible prison time, but certainly not as much as he would be if the greater charges survived.