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$10M Oxycodone Ring Bust: NYC Doctor Among 49 Arrested In Biggest Smuggling In State History

By Staff Writer | March 29, 2013 04:30 PM EDT

A $10 million oxycodone ring bust had nearly 50 people arrested including a New York City doctor across several states, including Pennsylvania, authorities said.

Authorities said 49 people including Dr. Hector Castro were arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to 39 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance.

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Castor in charge of Itzamma Medical Center in Manhattan is charged with leading the giant smuggling ring. More than 500,000 pills were being distributed based on more than 4,500 prescriptions that came from Castro's office, authorities said.

The arrests of the individuals come after a 15-month undercover investigation conducted by the city's special narcotics unit.

"A scheme to obtain prescriptions in one state, and fill them and distribute them in another, exposes weakness in our regulatory systems," Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a release.

A fatal oxycodone overdose in New Jersey, 2011 sparked an investigation that linked Castor, when his officials discovered a pill bottle with his name at the scene.

Castro's office manager, Patricia Valera also had been operation a separate trafficking ring for the past two years in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"Valera also ran a scheme stealing prescription pads and forging 155 prescriptions for drug traffickers who paid her $500 for the prescription sheets," said Brian Crowell, the special agent-in-charge of the DEA's New York Division.

"The unique thing of this case was you had both a rogue doctor and a rogue employee who were both running their own independent trafficking rings," said Brennan.

Forty-three people were arrested in Pennsylvania this week as well as on drug trafficking charges and possession of guns, leading to the largest mass-arrest related to prescription drugs in the state's history.

"This trafficking organization was just like any other narcotics trafficking organization, like a crack organization or a heroin organization, and there was a lot of violence within the organization," Brennan said.

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