Monday, January 27, 2014

Suspected pill ring busted by Middletown cops

Suspects in a major fraudulent prescription pill ring

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014

Middletown police recently broke up an alleged 11-member fraud ring that used legitimate prescriptions based on fake injuries to obtain more than 10,000 painkillers and amphetamines worth more than $200,000 last year.
The suspected ringleader, Vincent James Belmont III, 39, of Middletown, who initially cooperated with police, has disappeared, police said. A warrant is out for his arrest, as is one for another alleged participant, David Gerzon, 38, of Newtown Township.
The other nine members were arrested between October and December as the scam unraveled, according to Detective David Strother Jr., who headed the six-month investigation.
Belmont, who injured his back in 2002, had been fraudulently obtaining prescriptions for OxyContin, Oxycodone and Adderall since at least 2011, police said. Prescription records show starting in January 2012, Belmont began visiting 10 different doctors and obtaining duplicate prescriptions for painkillers.
He then would fill the prescriptions at one of 12 different pharmacies, police said.
Over 510 days — starting in 2012 — authorities said records show Belmont alone obtained 13,023 30 mg Oxycodone tablets, 2,235 80 mg OxyContin tablets, and 1,412 Adderall pills.
Belmont started recruiting people — other pill addicts — in February to join him in obtaining narcotic prescriptions from his Montgomery County doctor, police said. The doctor has not been charged, Smother said.
Belmont used his real MRIs for his back injury combined with phony MRI reports and pharmacy patient profiles created in the name of other participants to obtain the legitimate prescriptions, police said. A participant in the scheme then would fill the prescriptions, they added.
In return, Belmont split the pill proceeds with the participant and paid $1,000 per doctor trip, according to a probable cause affidavit.
In March, Belmont allegedly approached a police source with an offer to provide medical documentation and take the person to a specific doctor to obtain prescription narcotics. The source agreed and visited the doctor in April and, using the false materials, obtained prescriptions for OxyContin, Oxycodone and Xanax, court documents show.
The prescriptions were filled at a Lower Southampton chain pharmacy using the source’s health insurance. The routine continued each month until July, when the doctor’s office learned the documentation was fake, the affidavit said.
Between February and June, ring members obtained 8,486 tablets of 30 mg Oxycodone, 690 tablets of 80 mg OxyContin and 1,050 tablets of Adderal, Strother said. The prescriptions were filled in pharmacies in Bucks and Montgomery counties and Philadelphia, police said.
Most of the pills were for personal use, Strother said. Only one ring member, Mark Blanche Jr., 26, of Philadelphia, has admitted to selling the pills, which fetch $20 to $25 per 30 mg tablet of Oxycodone on the street, Strother said.
Middletown police were tipped to the ring in June when an anonymous caller reported Belmont was selling and using prescription narcotics and had several people working for him, according to court documents.
Belmont initially met with police and Bucks County detectives and agreed to cooperate, providing police with the names of participants, Smother said. Court papers indicate he admitted creating the fake medical documents as a “favor” for “good friends” while he charged others for the documents — either half the pills obtained or the cash value.
Participants visited anywhere from one to 22 pharmacies to fill prescriptions over the 10 months, police said.
But police also received information Belmont had his laptop computer and printer containing the fraudulent documents destroyed to prevent evidence from being retrieved, the affidavit said.
Police arrested the first participant, 39-year-old Middletown resident Raffelo Saturino, who was charged with using fake prescriptions to obtain pills one time. He told police that Belmont, a high school friend, approached him in the spring about participating in the fraud scheme in return for a portion of the painkillers, police said.
In November, police spoke with Belmont again and he admitted creating false medical documents and provided another list of people who were part of the ring, police said.
All the suspected ring members face similar charges of felony corrupt organizations, acquiring, obtaining or possessing a controlled substance through misrepresentation, and forgery.
The following suspects are scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Middletown District Judge John Kelly Jr. on Feb. 13.
  • Mark Blanche Jr., 26, of Philadelphia, free after posting 10 percent of his $25,000 bail.
  • Samantha Hecht, 22, of Middletown, and Belmont’s girlfriend, free on $20,000 unsecured bail.
  • Robert Oestreich, 33, of Bristol Township, who remains in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $25,000 bail.
  • Vincent DiTaranto, 26, of Bensalem, free on $50,000 unsecured bail.
  • Kyle Martin, 24, of Falls, free on $20,000 unsecured bail.
  • Raffelo Saturino, 39, free after posting 10 percent of his $75,000 bail.
  • Jeffrey Rubarkh, 39, Huntington Valley, free after posting 10 percent of his $70,000 bail.
  • Michael Dougherty, 26, of Feasterville, free on $50,000 unsecured bail.
  • Michael Britton, 37, of Middletown, free on $50,000 unsecured bail.


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