Cartersville Pain Management Clinic Physician and Employees Federally Charged for Unlawful Oxycodone Prescriptions

A doctor and four employees of Atlanta Medical Group, a pain management clinic, in Cartersville, Bartow County, were arrested last week by FBI agents, according to Dr. James Chapman, Jason Cole Votrobek, Jesse Violante, Roland Rafael Castellanos and Tara Atkins have been indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for allegedly distributing hundreds of thousands of oxycodone pills.

Image source:

The government charges that the defendants sought to see as many patients as possible and issue as many prescriptions for the drug as possible, while failing to conduct sufficient medical examinations. The defendants are also charged with using non-physician staff to issue prescriptions for oxycodone. The clinic is alleged to have made millions of dollars despite having been in operation for approximately one year. The defendants are alleged to have concealed the profits in numerous bank accounts with third-party names.

McDonough Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Conspiring to Import Cocaine, Heroin and Marijuana from Mexican Drug Cartel

On Friday, Marlon Burton of McDonough, Georgia , was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for conspiring to distribute cocaine, heroin and marijuana, according to an FBI press release. Burton was alleged to have imported hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, heroin and marijuana to Atlanta from Mexican drug cartel and to have sold the drugs to various street-level dealers. He was alleged to have traveled to Mexico on several occasions to negotiate prices and quantities of drugs. Burton was alleged to have funneled over $1.5 million in drug proceeds through his construction company and other businesses he controlled. Following a year-long investigation, law enforcement officers stopped a tractor trailer in McDonough carrying 40 kilograms of cocaine. Burton and eight other individuals were indicted in the Northern District of Georgia.

Attorney General Holder's Remarks on the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program

On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces and Asset Forfeiture Program's National Leadership Conference. Mr. Holder spoke regarding the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program, an inter-agency program established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with the Department of Justice Criminal Division, Tax Division and its U.S. Attorney’s Offices, as well as state and local law enforcement. Its mission is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

Mr. Holder praised the track record of OCDETF and the Asset Forfeiture Program. He mentioned that, since the inception of the Attorney General's Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) List in 2002, OCDETF has dismantled or disrupted over 1,2000 CPOT and CPOT-linked organizations.

The Attorney General discussed the innovation of OCDETF in establishing the OCDETF Fusion Center to gather intelligence on drug trafficking and money laundering organizations from human and electronic sources in its "Compass" database. Mr. Holder also stated that the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center -- or "IOC-2"--has recently entered into a partnership with the OCDETF Fusion Center to add data to the Compass database in order to "broaden our capability to attack organized crime in all its forms."

Mr. Holder also remarked on the success of permanent OCDETF Strike Forces in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Tampa, San Juan, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, with an additional Strike Force planned for El Paso. He mentioned that OCDETF has begun placing Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Teams in the Atlanta and Houston Strike Forces, which permit agents to rapidly capture and exploit evidence and permit prosecutors to quickly develop trial exhibits.

The Attorney General cited the national security threat of the Mexican drug cartels. Mr. Holder furthermore discussed the success of the Asset Forfeiture Program and noted that, since 1984, more than $13 billion in net federal forfeiture proceeds have been deposited into the Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund and more than $4.5 billion has been equitably shared with more than 8,000 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide, thereby supplementing their constrained resources without further taxing the public. The Attorney General stated that, in fiscal year 2008 alone, approximately $500 million was paid to more 39,000 victims.

Mr. Holder also praised Operation Honor Student, which involved a task force led by the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and resulted in the forfeiture of $2.7 million from the accounts of GeneScience, one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in China which had been involved in the illegal distribution of Human Growth Hormone into the United States. He noted that the task force employed a new statutory vehicle-- 18 U.S.C. § 981(k) --enacted as part of the Patriot Act and used for the first time, which permitted the Government to seize the funds, physically located in China, from the corresponding accounts of Chinese banks in New York. Task force agents estimate that at the time of the investigation, GeneScience manufactured approximately 90% of the hGH being illegally sold and distributed in the United States.

Last Member of Black Mafia Family Drug Trafficking Organization Apprehended in Atlanta

As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Vernon Marcus Coleman, the last remaining member of the Black Mafia Family, or BMF, was arrested last Thursday. Coleman was apprehended at an apartment in north Atlanta by the U.S. Marshals' Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force. Coleman had been wanted for over two years on cocaine charges, as well as on a traffic charge in Douglas County.

Coleman went by several aliases, including Jason Stevenson Parkinson and WU, a rapper. He claimed to be associated with The Life Records, The Illustrious Family and B-EZ Entertainment. Agents discovered fake documents in Coleman's apartment with his aliases, as well as drug paraphernalia. Coleman told agents that he knew he was wanted because he watched his fugitive profile on a cable channel.

The BMF operated a drug distribution business nationwide before coming to the attention of authorities in 2003. By that time, Atlanta had become a key city in the nationwide organization that ran a violent, yet lucrative, national drug distribution business. Atlanta was a key center for the organization and, at one point, the BMF controlled or had a hand in virtually all of the cocaine and crack cocaine sold in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Detroit and locations in between. The BMF would use limousines to transport cocaine between cities.

Approximately 150 BMF members have been arrested and convicted in several cities on drug and weapons charges. Coleman is the final BMF member to be apprehended. Last December, another BMF member, Fleming Daniels, was sentenced to 20 years in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for distributing more than $1 million in cocaine. A total of 16 defendants have been indicted in Atlanta in relation to the BMF. 11 have pled guilty and Daniels' the only one of the cases to go to trial.

DEA Seizes $6 Million of Mexican Meth

The DEA announced yesterday that it seized 351 pounds of Mexican meth worth an estimated $6 million in the metro Atlanta area the AJC reports. DEA Agent in charge, Rodney Benson, standing behind the seized meth said that this seizure ranks among the largest in the eastern U.S.

Four men, all Mexican natives, were arrested in Duluth, Georgia at the time of the seizures. Each defendant is being held without bond.

Benson described the seized meth as the work of Mexican cartels using Atlanta as an east coast distribution center. Benson said that the government will attempt “to link this organization to the larger organization responsible for bringing this to the metro Atlanta area."

Day of Reckoning for Latin American Drug Cartel

Last week, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia unsealed two indictments charging 34 defendants in a nationwide drug trafficking and distribution network based in Colombia, Guatemala Panama and Mexico, known as the "Gulf Cartel." The defendants were members of "cells" which coordinated the distribution of millions of dollars worth of cocaine and marijuana. One of the network's cells was based in Atlanta, with other cells in several other cities, including Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis; Indianapolis and Austin, Texas. The traffickers shipped drug proceeds from Atlanta and other cities to Texas by tractor-trailer, and then to Mexico, concealing the money with legitimate cargo.

The indictments are the result of "Operation Confluence," a series of searches and arrests executed last week in conjunction with similar operations around the country, including “Operation Dos Equis,” “Operation The Family,” “Operation Stinger” and “Operation Vertigo, which are part of “Project Reckoning,” a multi-agency law enforcement effort designed to bring down the Gulf Cartel. Federal and state agents employed wiretaps, surveillance, police traffic stops and other techniques in the investigation, which culminated in nationwide arrests and seizures executed on September 16.  In all, Project Reckoning has resulted in the arrest of 332 individuals, the seizure of $57 million in U.S. currency, and the seizure of 51,147 pounds of marijuana, 16,347 kilgorams of cocaine and other quantities of drugs and guns.U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced the results of the project last week at the DEA's Atlanta Division headquarters.

Black Market Peso Exchange Thriving Despite Economy

   According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia, 24 defendants have entered guilty pleas in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on money laundering conspiracy charges. The charges against the defendants allege that the defendants attempted to launder millions of dollars through the "black market peso exchange." The black market peso exchange is comprise of Colombian narcotics traffickers who need to convert U.S. currency earned from the drug trade into Colombian pesos, since U.S. currency is generally not accepted in Colombia.
    The defendants were apprehended through a sting operation by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement called "Operation Rainmaker." ICE agents, posing as money launderers, made 33 pickups of drug proceeds in Atlanta, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Puerto Rico, as well as ICE's first ever pickup in Mexico. $9,000,000 in proceeds, as well as quantities of narcotics, were seized as the result of the operation. The Atlanta defendants were arrested following two pickups by agents at a store parking lot in Gwinnett County.

Atlanta Vice?: Atlanta Area a Global Center for Drug Distribution

Jack Killorin, the Director of the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), announced to the press that drug enforcement efforts have resulted in a rise in drug prices and decrease in drug quality in the metro Atlanta area. Killorin cited the HIDTA’s and Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) shutting down of two drug trafficking operations in December and seizure of millions of dollars worth of drugs and $10 million in cash. Killorin further noted the DEA’s large seizures of methamphetamine in Gwinnett County over the last three years, including a record-setting $50 million worth of crystal meth seized in Buford, Georgia, in 2006.

Killorin also described to Atlanta as “Atlanta Vice,” in reference to the popular 1980s television show “Miami Vice,” minus the palm trees, bikinis, speed boats and white sports jackets. According to federal authorities, Atlanta has become a global center for drug distribution, receiving a range of drugs, including powder and crack cocaine, crystal meth and ecstasy, mostly from Mexican drug cartels, and distributing them to cities in the East and Midwest. Moreover, the drug trade has moved into the affluent suburbs, with drug traffickers renting houses on large, private lots to shield them from surveillance. Killorin also stated, on the positive side, that Georgia’s 2005 law restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, a necessary ingredient for methamphetamine production, has reduced the number of meth labs which used to riddle north Georgia, although meth produced in Mexico has filled the vacuum.

Ink is on the Wall for Dozens Arrested in Gun and Drug Sting

          Although tattoo artistry has proved a great success for the TLC network through programs such as “Miami Ink” and “L.A. Ink,” you won’t see “Augusta Ink,” except perhaps on local nightly news. That’s because “Augusta Ink” is a 16-month sting operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Richmond County Sheriff’s Department. ATF agents and Sheriff’s deputies posed as employees of a tattoo parlor in Hephzibah, Georgia, attempting to purchase illegal firearms and drugs from local gang members. The operation netted 400 firearms and boxes of drugs. The arrest operation in November further resulted in 71 arrests. These individuals are now being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.