Fort Smith, Arkansas

By Amy Sherrill

February 6, 2009

(FORT SMITH, ARKANSAS) — Several felony warrants were served Thursday by local law enforcement agencies following a 13-month investigation into illegally obtained and sold prescription narcotics in the Fort Smith region, according to a police spokesperson.

Dubbed, “Operation River Valley Pharming,” the investigation, led by the Fort Smith Police Department, resulted in 80 felony arrest warrants being issued for 45 people.

Twenty-eight of the 45 were located Thursday and arrested, said Sgt. Levi Risley of the Fort Smith Police Department.

During the investigation, police learned that the prescription pill distributors had a vast network of people who would sell to one another. The suspects knew each other’s doctor’s appointments and would plan the drug buys following the doctor visits, Risley said.

The distributors would provide false information to physicians regarding fake ailments to obtain a controlled substance prescription and later would sell it at an increased price, Risley added.

“A typical Oxycodone prescription filled via Medicaid/Medicare costs the customer roughly $7 to $10 and then those pills, sold individually, can make a $250 to $500 profit,” said detective Cpl. Paul Smith of the Fort Smith Police Department.

Some of the controlled substances sold during the police operation include Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Hydrocodone, Carisoprodol, Diazepam, Valium and Clonazepam.

Undercover police officers and confidential informants purchased varying quantities, or whole bottles of the controlled substances at residences, the streets, in the parking lot of pharmacies and doctor’s offices. One purchase was in a church, Smith said.

Authorities utilized nearly $8,500 in Police Department and $1,500 in Arkansas State Police “buy money,” during the operation, according to Smith.

Nearly 150 additional people not named in the arrest warrants were identified as suspected abusers or distributors of controlled-substance prescription medication. The investigation is still ongoing, Risley said.

Several law enforcement agencies served the warrants in a cooperative effort of arrest teams comprised of officers with the Fort Smith Police Department’s Narcotic Unit, Drug Enforcement Administration, Arkansas State Police, State Probation and Parole Office, 12th and 21st Judicial Drug Task Force, Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Barling Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Marshals Service River Valley Task Force and the Van Buren Police Department.


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