Ex-pharmacist who pleaded guilty to illegal drug sales wants sentence reduced

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 10, 2012 at 6:05 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 10 at 10:59 AM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mperlstein

NEW ORLEANS - The 2010 raid of the Esplanade Pharmacy appeared to be the end of the line for rogue pharmacist Carlton Charles.

“When we entered there in December of 2010, who was behind the counter? Carlton Charles,” recalled DEA Special Agent Warren Rivera. “He didn't even have a pharmacy permit or anything. We actually went in the front door and he's running out of the back door."

The fact that Charles remained in business at all was baffling to law enforcement. Charles had his license yanked back in 2001 after he pleaded guilty to illegal drug sales in Jefferson Parish.

Rivera said after serving probation, Charles went right back to his old habits - distributing narcotics to anyone willing to pay.

But it wasn't what took place over-the-counter that ultimately landed the 61-year-old behind bars.

"The DEA revoked his registration in 2010,” said Rivera. “Since that time, he just continued to do business as usual not in the brick and mortar - dole in and out - but he would do it over the Internet."

When Charles was hit with a 40-count indictment in July his Internet pill mill stretched to all 50 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"This is probably the largest one we have ever seen in our criminal district court," said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

These types of cases usually go straight to federal court. But in this case, the DEA went to state court, where Cannizzaro was happy to take up the case.

In a surprise plea bargain, Charles agreed to a 25-year sentence with a promise that his wife would be spared jail time. But now Charles is back in court with a new attorney asking for a sentence reduction.

"Under the law, he's entitled to file for a reconsideration of sentence based on a variety of different things, including mitigating circumstances, that never went to the judge prior to the sentencing," said attorney Vinny Mosca.

Law enforcement was not aware of a document, discovered by Eyewitness News that shows that after Hurricane Katrina the Department of Homeland Security rented space in Esplanade Pharmacy for $1,000 a month.

In late 2011, a full year after the pharmacy was raided, Charles signed an option agreement to sell property to HANO. The deal for the empty lot in Treme never went through but records show that Charles pocketed $6,000 for signing the option.

Mosca said these government deals could help Charles get his sentence cut.

If Charles does get back into court, Agent Rivera would like to make sure that the judge is made aware of what his agents witnessed during months of surveillance.

"We actually saw him leaving the pharmacy, Esplanade Pharmacy, with big black garbage bags over his shoulder like Santa Claus, and it was all full of pharmaceuticals."

Charles' has been given a January deadline to file the reasons his sentence should be reduced.

Three of Charles' co-defendants, including his wife Gwendolyn, have also pleaded guilty. She's on probation after receiving a suspended sentence.

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