Three Illinois men police say made an unsuccessful bid to get tightly-regulated medication from a Sparta pharmacy using a bogus, phoned-in prescription were arraigned Monday on felony drug conspiracy charges.
The trio are charged with conspiracy to obtain a controlled substance by fraud involving promethazine with codeine. Two of the men are also linked to prescription fraud in other states and there is evidence they planned to visit other Michigan pharmacies, investigators said.
Police found numerous bottles and fraudulent scripts in their car.
“With the prescription bottles out of West Virginia, criminal histories out of Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois and now Michigan, it is very clear this is a much bigger problem than just here in Sparta,’’ Sparta Police Officer David Price said. “I think their criminal histories make very clear what their intent was.’’
Promethazine with codeine is commonly used to treat cold and allergy symptoms. But it is also used as part of an addictive beverage called ‘Purple Drank’ that has been linked to deaths in Texas.
The trio came on police radar Wednesday when a pharmacist at Family Fare in Sparta notified police about a suspicious phone call for an order of promethazine with codeine, court records show.
“The pharmacist felt the call sounded suspicious and called the doctor who purportedly authorized the prescription,’’ Sparta Officer William Cook wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
Investigators traced the prescription to a doctor in Arkansas, who said it was bogus. “The doctor made mention that his office had been named on other prescription fraud cases around the country,’’ Price said.
On Friday, Feb. 10, the trio drove from Chicago to Sparta “with the intent to obtain the false prescription from the Family Fare pharmacy,’’ Cook wrote.
One of the men entered the store and asked if the prescription was ready. The pharmacist stalled the man so police could be notified; he got cold feet and left the store, Price said. The trio were promptly arrested; two of the three gave police false names, Price said.
Those charged are:
Lavelle Jermaine Butler, 24, of Riverdale, Ill. He is charged with conspiracy to obtain a controlled substance by fraud. Butler has prior convictions in Illinois for residential burglary and possession of marijuana. He is being held on a $20,000 bond.
Roberto Lee House, 23, of Chicago, Ill. He is charged with conspiracy to obtain a controlled substance by fraud. He has prior arrests in Indiana and Tennessee for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and possession of marijuana cases out of Illinois and Indiana. House is being held on a $20,000 bond.
Jermaine R. Traylor, 23, of Chicago. Traylor is charged with conspiracy to obtain a controlled substance by fraud, possession of marijuana, operating with a license that has been suspended, revoked or denied and operating with a license that has been forged or altered. Traylor “has been arrested in Illinois numerous times for marijuana possession and has an active warrant for prescription fraud in Illinois,’’ according to court records. Bond for Traylor was set at $25,000.
“I found this case interesting because of the distances people with these habits will travel to procure prescription drugs,’’ Sparta Police Chief Andrew Milanowski said. “I want to also point out that these suspects would not have been caught had it not been for an alert and suspicious pharmacist.’’
The three will be back in court for probable cause hearings later this month. They are among more than a dozen people prosecuted in Kent County in the past year for trying to obtain controlled substances by fraud. The felony charge is punishable by up to four years in prison.