Seven arrested, five search warrants served in year-long federal drug operation
US Attorney for Hawaii Kenji Price warns the public that while the federal operation may officially be ending, his office will still be vigilantly prosecuting medical workers who break the law.
HONOLULU - Seven arrests, five search warrants, and six medical licenses revoked. Law enforcement targeted doctors, pharmacists, and medical workers accused of illegally distributed prescription drugs.
The Drug Enforcement Agency focused on Hawaii, Nevada, and California in what agents call Operation Hypocritical Oath to catch medical professionals illegally distributing opioids like oxycodone.
America is suffering from an opioid epidemic, according to the DEA. It says more than 11 million Americans abuse opioids. That's why it launched Operation Hypocritical Oath last February. John Callery, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Honolulu field office, described, "This initiative focused on medical professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants who illegally prescribed and dispensed pharmaceutical-controlled substances."
It's going after suspects in Hawaii and two other states who took the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, but are now accused of hurting those they swore to help. Callery says, "Over 130 people die each day from opioid overdoses."
Hawaii's US Attorney Kenji Price says the overdose death rate in Hawaii is not as high as it is in rest of the country, but his office is committed to working with the DEA to keep catching criminals. Price warned, "We're not going to stand by idly while folks violate the law by illegally supplying painkillers to the vulnerable people in our communities."
In the last 12 months, the crackdown included the arrest of Tripler Army Medical Center technician Olivia Ronquillo, who got a year in prison for handing out more than 8,000 narcotics without a prescription; Alika Kaahu, whose trial is set for March for allegedly distributing heroine and oxycodone; and Hilo doctor Ernest Bade and his team.
Price says, "The doctor and his four employees were prescribing and unlawfully distributing powerful narcotics, sedatives, and opioids such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine." They have yet to go to trial on the charges. Trial is currently set for June.
Most health care workers do the right thing, says the DEA, but even that small percentage illegally handing out prescription medication can have a major negative influence on the community. Callery says, "There 4,500 prescribers in Hawaii and if close to 0.5% are doing something illicitly, that is 20 to 25 people. That is extremely damaging to a small community like Hawaii."
Operation Hypocritical Oath ends in February, but law enforcement promises its effort to stop the opioid epidemic, will not- and promises more arrests in the near future.
If you have a lead for a possible case, the DEA asks you to call (808) 541-1930 or (877) RX-ABUSE.