United States Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas announced Monday that a federal judge sentenced a Louisiana woman to six and a half years in prison for her role in a massive opioid “pill mill” ring.
Carolina Giselle Berrio, a.k.a. “Carolina Slocum Berrio,” “Karrie,” 37, of Lafayette, Louisiana, received 78 months, or six and a half years, in federal prison from U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater. In March, Berrio pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
In 2015, Berrio was one of two dozen individuals indicted by a Dallas federal grand jury for crimes committed while involved in the prescription opioid drug operation. That indictment alleged from roughly January 2o13 through July 2014, the defendants participated in a scheme to illegally obtain prescription painkillers like oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) so they could sell these controlled substances for profit. As part of the conspiracy, so-called “script ring leaders” often recruited homeless or very low income people they paid to pose as patients at medical clinics to get prescriptions filled at designated pharmacies for felonious distribution in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Louisiana.
At one such facility, the McAllen Medical Clinic in Dallas, two of the three owners, Dr. Richard Andrews and pharmacist Kdufola Kigham, pleaded guilty on multiple conspiracy charges including oxycodone distribution and money laundering earlier this year. The third owner, Muhammad Faridi, pleaded guilty to money laundering in 2016. The feds originally indicted these individuals over allegations they funneled at least 150,000 oxycodone (30 mg) pills through their clinic.
Berrio’s plea documents stated that, on December 18, 2013, she sought to purchase 300 oxycodone pills with the intent to illegally sell them, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Berrio negotiated a price for the medication with her supplier and co-conspirator Cornelius Delshun Robinson a.k.a. “Tadow,” 37. He asked Berrio for more money to deliver the pills to her in Lafayette, Louisiana, and offered a lower price if she picked up the goods in Houston where he resided. Ultimately, Berrio paid $18.50 per oxycodone pill and retrieved them in Texas. She later admitted to the feds she bought more oxycodone pills from Robinson in March and May of 2014.
For his role in the scheme, Robinson got 120 months, or 10 years, in federal prison. Berrio’s case marked the last of 29 defendants to plead guilty to charges in the criminal “pill mill” venture. Other co-defendants received varying punishments from probation to prison terms.
The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a special investigation unit, headed up the probe that included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Louisiana State Police, the Grand Prairie Police Department, the Dallas Police Department, the Houston Police Department, the Arlington Police Department, the Greenville Police Department, the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Diplomatic Security Service.
Since 1999, prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone dispensed in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They also cite nearly two million American abused or became dependent on prescription opioids in 2014. More than 33,000 opioid-related deaths were reported nationwide in 2015, of which 1,186 were in Texas.
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