Leader of Puget Sound Oxycodone Distribution Ring Sentenced To Prison
June 19, 2017
(SEATTLE, WA.) -- The leader of a prescription forgery ring that distributed hundreds of thousands of pills of oxycodone was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 76 months in prison and 5 years of supervised release, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the western District of Washington.
Anthony Ballenger, 29, pleaded guilty in March to unauthorized access to a protected computer, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said, “The greatest common denominator with criminal activity in this society is drugs…This is a serious offense—it has a corrosive effect on trust in our institutions and healthcare.”
“This defendant is responsible for thousands of dangerous pills ending up in the wrong hands,” said U.S. Attorney Hayes. “We are in the midst of an opioid crisis that is killing too many members of our community. I commend investigators who uncovered this defendant’s crimes and put him out of business.”
According to records filed in the case, Ballenger was the leader of a sophisticated ring that stole the identity information of various medical professionals to forge prescriptions for powerful painkillers.
The conspirators used stolen DEA registration numbers to create phony prescriptions while using various online tools to make it appear that the prescriptions had been issued by actual medical providers, according to the statement from Hayes' ofivce.
In order to lull pharmacies into filling the prescriptions, Ballenger illegally accessed various online databases, including government databases, and altered the contact information for the medical professionals to divert inquiries from pharmacies to himself.
Ballenger also posed as the medical professionals whose identities he stole when accessing online prescription-delivery systems, which he then used to send electronic prescriptions to pharmacies throughout Western Washington. After obtaining thousands of pills, the conspirators distributed them to users throughout the Puget Sound region.
Co-defendant Lea Espy, 49, of Auburn, Washington, who used the fake identities to obtain the drugs at pharmacies is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Two other defendants are currently participating in the Drug Reentry Alternative Model (DREAM) court in the district. A fourth defendant, Stosh Satkowski, 24, of Tacoma is currently a fugitive.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad which contains task force officers from Tacoma and Seattle Police Departments and the Washington State Patrol.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Siddharth Velamoor.