NEW ORLEANS -- In a surprise guilty plea, rouge pharmacist Carlton Charles agreed Tuesday to a 25-year sentence after confessing to operating a multi-million dollar Internet-based pill mill.
Charles, 60, was immediately jailed after pleading guilty to conducting thousands of illegal narcotics transactions since 1998 using Esplanade Pharmacy at 1400 Esplanade Ave. as a front for his operation.
Even though the pharmacy was raided in 2010 by the DEA, Charles admitted that his enterprise continued to illegally buy and sell large volumes of prescription drugs through the Internet.
In the case authorities dubbed “Operation Click for Script,” Charles pleaded guilty as charged to 28 counts, including money laundering, racketeering and drug distribution conspiracy.
Three other defendants in the state court case also pleaded guilty.
Charles’ wife, Gwendolyn Charles, received probation and a 10-year suspended sentence, while Anthony Crain and Emma Porter received probation and five-year suspended sentences. A fifth defendant, Oremo Ochillo, pleaded not guilty.
Charles, a former campaign contributor to jailed ex-Congressman William Jefferson, previously lost his pharmacy license after a prescription drug conviction in 2000.
In addition to the Esplanade Pharmacy, Charles also owned the Sports Vue bar on Elysian Fields. A raid at the bar last year netted 43 arrests, with charges ranging from drug possession to underage drinking.
When Charles and his wife were arrested in May, Jimmy Fox, special agent in charge of the local DEA, said, “We brought this organization to its knees, literally to its knees.”
The district attorney’s office and DEA were assisted by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Harahan Police Department, Westwego Police Department and St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office, Bowman said.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Michael Redmann and Autumn Cheramie. Charles is set to be formally sentenced by Judge Karen Herman on Aug. 21.