Coming from someone who is not a "Frequent Flyer" when it comes to weddings, funerals, hospitals or dentist offices, I found myself forced to hang out in our local emergency room, teetering on the brink of death with what the doctors called an uncommon medical condition. To summarize, I spent the better part of January in the hospital, being inundated with high doses of morphine, numerous needle sticks, the inability to control my bodily functions, and a high-grade fever followed by countless hours of delusion as I was visited by many cartoon characters from my childhood including but not limited to Scooby Doo. Needless to say, after approximately two to three days of pulling the trigger on my morphine pump, my hospital experience turned in to some of the best intelligence gathering I have ever stumbled across.
About a week prior to my hospital visit a friend of mine was working on a prescription drug case involving an anonymous tip. The caller advised that his relative was obtaining prescription drugs and selling them. The 33-year-old suspect, a single mother raising two kids, had been detained during a traffic stop with - you guessed it - a large amount of OxyContin in her vehicle. I realize that depending on what part of the country you are from, a "large amount" can go many different directions but in this particular case, 8,000 pills is going to be deemed a "large amount".
After a short follow up investigation and phone calls to many of our federal, state and local law enforcement contacts, my friend was unable to establish that the number of pills possessed by this suspect was either unjustified or unreasonable. Furthermore, another acquaintance of ours advised that, "It's just damn hard to say what or how much of any prescription is unreasonable if a physician deems it otherwise. As long as the name on the bottle is the person in possession of it, a crime has not occurred." That leads back to my hospital experience.
During part of my emergency room visit, I was blessed with the company of guy nicknamed named, "Bump." Bump was a 25-yer-old white male, in relatively good shape and fairly well groomed for just walking in to an emergency room. During one of our conversations, I asked Bump, "So, what are you in for?"
"Dude," Bump replied, "I got a lot of pain." As a thin, torn curtain separated us, I heard the physician on-call approach Bump's bed and later depart the room only for Bump and I to continue our conversation where we left off. "I'm getting my pain pills," Bump explained.
"I hope to hell I can go home soon," I replied as if ignoring what Bump had just said. It was at this instant, Bump began to educate me on nearly every aspect of prescription drug fraud.
Through the course of approximately 20 minutes, Bump managed to provide me with intimate details of his six emergency rooms, thirteen pharmacies and six physicians that he had visited throughout the month, in a three-hundred mile radius. He also explained how his Medicaid co-pay would only cost him a few dollars for a prescription for 150 OxyContin pills, all of which he planned to sell for $15 to $40 a pill. I would also learn that the sale of prescription drugs in our area is quickly becoming a saturated market, according to Bump. With more and more individuals seeking federal and state medical assistance, Bump advised it was greatly affecting his overall return.
"Why don't you get caught," I arrogantly asked. Bump didn't have a clue what I do for a living.
"'Cause cops don't [mess] with pain pills man," Bump quickly stated.
As I hung on to every word, we were met by a nurse entering the room who swiftly pulled the curtain separating Bump and I. "Ok, we are going to prescribe you a 30-day supply and ask that you follow up with your regular physician," the nurse stated. With script in hand, followed by a short nod, Bump left the room with a new sense of vigor in his step.
While lying in bed during the remainder of my stay, I couldn't help but reflect back to my conversation with the guy. Here was a man making an unthinkable profit on a drug that in turn is only costing him a few dollars to legally obtain. There is no fear for getting caught with the drug as it was legitimately prescribed, all the while my friend (the investigator) who was conducting the OxyContin investigation a few weeks prior is supplying the funding for Bump's business by working and paying taxes.
What is even more fascinating is the fact that while speaking with Scooby Doo, Speedy Gonzales and Papa Smurf, everyone in the room had gotten quite a kick out of the fact that Bump openly had this conversation with a police officer.
On a final note, intelligence gathering can happen in the most unusual places when you least expect it. As police officers, it is at times unhealthy to always take our work with us but it is unique circumstances like these that provide some of the best insight into otherwise uncharted waters and the criminal element.
Be safe & do good work!