A state grand jury today issued a 40-count indictment following the dismantling of a major prescription drug-trafficking ring which authorities dubbed 'Operation Click for Script.'
New Orleans businessman Carlton Charles, who previously lost his pharmacy license after a prescription drug conviction in 2000, has been pegged as the ringleader of the operation, according to the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office.
Federal agents allege that the drug operation conducted thousands of illegal narcotics transactions between 1998 and 2012 through the Esplanade Pharmacy at 1400 Esplanade Avenue.
Charles was indicted on 28 individual charges, including money laundering, racketeering and drug distribution conspiracy counts. A capias has been issued for his arrest. He will be subject to a $2.4 million bond upon his arrest, according to DA's office spokesman Christopher Bowman.
Charles and his wife, Gwendolyn, operated the Esplanade Pharmacy when it was raided by the DEA in 2010. Gwendolyn Charles was indicted on 17 counts and will be subject to a $1.2 million bond upon her arrest.
Despite the 2010 raid, federal agents say the enterprise continued to buy and sell large volumes of prescription drugs in violation of federal and state law.
When Charles and his wife were first 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.'
Oremo Ochillo, Anthony Crane and Emma Porter were indicted in the case as alleged co-conspirators. All the defendants were at large late Thursday.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he hopes this case serves as a model of federal-state law enforcementteamwork in other major drug cases.
In response to the indictments, Cannizzaro issued this statement:: 'I want to thank the Drug Enforcement Agency and Jimmy Fox, the Special-Agent-In-Charge of the New Orleans Field Division of the DEA, for having the confidence in my office to prosecute this case. I truly appreciate the opportunity to partner with our Federal law enforcement colleagues. My Assistant District Attorneys have, for more than a year, been working closely with the members of this task force in the investigation of this case. I hope that this can be a new and innovative model for the prosecution of large scale narcotics dealers in this city.'
The DA'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.