Illegal prescription drug operation busted in Pinellas Co.

- An illegal Xanex peddling operation was shut down after a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office investigation.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced in a news conference Friday, five main players and more than 30 others were found to be involved in the illegal prescription ring.

The sheriff said the person who seemed to be in charge of the operation, Rakiah Darden, worked at Medical Home Doctors on 15th Avenue S. between 2013 and 2016, but recently left the office. 

Darden and her brother, Rory, identified people willing to have prescriptions for Xanex submitted to pharmacies in their names.

Rory and three others would then pick up the prescriptions, pay or compensate those whose names had been used to get the prescriptions, then sell the pills illegally.

Sheriff Gualtieri said the operation was much more than an amateur operation. 

"They had a plan, they were executing the plan and they knew exactly what they were doing," Gualtieri said. "This could continue to grow and mushroom and they would continue to get recruiters. She had a thing going. A lucrative thing going."

The sheriff said 36 people had been identified as having allowed their names to be used for prescriptions. 

Sheriff Gualtieri added, the doctor whose office was being used by Darden for the illegal prescription writing operation was cooperative, uninvolved in the illegal activity, and "as much a victim in this as anyone else."

"There was a trust factor with her, and of course she violated that trust with the doctor," the sheriff said. "She took advantage of situation when he was out of the office, used his prescription pad, to use his office, to use authority as physician to call in these prescriptions; he was stunned, disappointed and concerned about it."

In all, the sheriff's office said it has proof of 67 trips their runners made to 41 different pharmacies, to pick up illegally obtained prescriptions between 2014 and 2016. The group managed to obtain 37,000 pills for over $200,000 value when sold on the street.

The sheriff's office said many of the prescriptions illegally written were for 90 Xanex pills each, some with refills, and Darden was accused of writing 417 fraudulent prescriptions in total.

Detectives were also able to get video evidence of Darden faxing the prescriptions to the pharmacies, then video evidence from the cooperating pharmacy of one of Darden's helpers picking up the prescriptions.

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