Police launched a war on illegal prescription drugs in Fairfax County, Va.
After a number of reports of residents being hospitalized after the consumption of illegally distributed prescription drugs, police began an undercover operation six months ago. They targeted a wide-ranging area of distribution, from tiny butcher shops to small bodegas.
The drugs would be stored typically right by the register and customers would pay anywhere from $5 to $25 cash per dose. Police served more than a dozen search warrants across the county Friday and seized thousands of doses of painkillers, birth control pills, antibiotics and other drugs allegedly smuggled into the country from Central America.
The Latino community had reached out to police over the past several years with reports about counterfeit drugs being sold in their neighborhoods, but there’s concern that other incidents haven’t been called in because of the community’s hesitation to interact with police.
“Some of the people who came forward asking for help from us were very hesitant to do so,” said John Piper, commander of the Criminal Intelligence Division. “They were non-English speaking immigrants who came from countries where they’d had negative experienced with law enforcement, so it was a tough thing for them to do. Most likely, there are many others who’ve become ill from these smuggled drugs that we will never know about.”
The backroom drugs were sold to people who couldn't afford a regular doctor, investigators said. In one case, the clerk told an undercover office how to use a hypodermic needle.
Mashur Ittayen, owner of one of the raided stores, said he purchased smuggled antibiotics for his personal use because he can't afford a doctor's prescription. He said when he has sold pills at cost to customers, it’s only when they are suffering from illness.
The investigation is ongoing and the police will make arrests and charge suspects as they continue the operation. Store owners or clerks could face felony charges for dispensing prescription drugs without a license.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mail at www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES/274637 or call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.