RACINE COUNTY — Officials with the Racine County Sheriff’s Office say 50 suspects have been identified and taken into custody since the fall of 2015 — when the “Metro Drug Unit” and the Milwaukee DEA teamed up for a large scale operation focused on combating rampant prescription painkiller diversion, misuse and addiction in Racine County.
Sheriff’s officials say this investigation has focused on street level opiate dealers in Racine who are illegally selling prescription drugs.
The investigation has revealed the most common drugs being sold on the street are Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Adderall and Xanax.
According to a news release issued by Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, investigators utilized a “Prescription Drug Monitoring Program” to identify prescribers — and doctors were then contacted and informed of their patient’s illegal activity. Investigators have encouraged doctors to make a stronger effort in ensuring their patient is taking the medication as prescribed, including conducting drug screenings to identify patients who are not taking their prescribed medications or are combining them with illegal drugs.
As of Wednesday, May 18th, 50 suspects are facing charges in connection with this investigation.
Sheriff’s officials say many have been booked into jail — with some arrests still pending.
“If you are selling your prescription medications, now would be a good time to stop,” Sgt. Scott Krogh with the Racine County Sheriff’s Office said in the release.
Sheriff’s officials say this investigation has revealed that although some of these dealers are selling a dozen or less pills at a time, many will sell their entire prescription, often within hours of obtaining them, for large profits.
The goal of the operation has been to identify these sources of supply and stop them from obtaining prescriptions and selling them on the street.
Investigators say several of these dealers have prescriptions paid for by insurance or government assistance.
Some individuals facing charges were selling highly addictive prescription painkillers solely for cash profit and several are heroin addicts who rely on selling controlled opiate pills for money to purchase heroin. Several individuals have stated in interviews that prescription opiate addiction led them to heroin addiction, according to the news release.
Investigators say they want to make it clear that selling prescription medications is a felony — just the same as selling cocaine or heroin.
“The rampant illegal diversion and misuse of powerful prescription opiate painkillers has led to epidemic levels of addiction – including heroin addiction – that tears apart lives and families. This action taken by the Racine County Metro Drug Unit is impactful, but law enforcement cannot do it alone. Healthcare systems need to change prescriber practices to reduce availability of controlled painkillers – this is beginning to happen with interaction between law enforcement, policy makers and healthcare systems,” said Milwaukee DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Bell.