New Orleans, Louisiana - Eight New Orleans, Louisiana-area defendants have pleaded guilty for their participation in a conspiracy to obtain oxycodone through fraud by using fictitious prescriptions. Six of the eight defendants have also pleaded guilty for the roles in a scheme to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone on the black market.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Eric J. Rommal of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Stephen G. Azzam of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s New Orleans Field Division made the announcement.
Jesse J. Wildenfels, 39, of Metairie, Louisiana, pleaded guilty today to a dual-object conspiracy to acquire and obtain possession of oxycodone by fraud and to possess oxycodone with the intent to distribute. On Oct. 17, Luis R. Cabrera Jr., 38, of Norco, Louisiana; Vicki J. Skeldon, 44, of Metairie; Stephanie N. Free, 28, of Gretna, Louisiana; Jarrod A. Doubleday, 47, of Livingston, Louisiana; John A. Doubleday, 52, of Place, Louisiana; Whitney J. Swan III, 48, of Saint Rose, Louisiana; and Cynthia B. Foret, 41, also of Norco, pleaded guilty to their roles in violating the Controlled Substances Act. Cabrera, Skeldon, Free, John Doubleday and Swan pleaded guilty to a dual-object conspiracy to acquire and obtain possession of oxycodone by fraud and to possess oxycodone with the intent to distribute. Jarrod Doubleday and Foret pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obtain possession of oxycodone by fraud.
“These defendants were responsible for over 10,000 Oxycodone pills flowing onto the streets in and around New Orleans,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “I commend the prosecutors in the Medicare Fraud Strike Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with our law enforcement partners, for their outstanding efforts to disrupt the illegal sale of opioids on the black market.”
“The proliferation of illegally obtained opioids flooding our community has made a significant contribution to the abuse of prescription drugs which plagues many families,” said U.S. Attorney Strasser. “Cases such as this shows the commitment DOJ has to our community by combating this growing threat.”
“Driven by greed and addiction, these eight defendants manipulated a system established to assist patients with legitimate medical conditions,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Rommal. “Through their illicit gains, these defendants contributed to the daily oxycodone epidemic taking this nation by storm. By removing these defendants from our streets and communities, the FBI, in conjunction with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners were able to take the drugs out of an addict’s hands and hopefully save a life or two.”
“The eight individuals involved in this scheme heartlessly contributed to the opioid epidemic plaguing our society today,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Azzam. “This malicious conduct puts lives at risk and won’t be tolerated. DEA, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to perpetuate and profit from the opioid crisis in this country and bring them to justice.”
The charges stem from the defendants’ involvement in a prescription drug diversion conspiracy in the greater New Orleans area. The conspiracy in total resulted in the diversion of approximately 10,000 oxycodone pills on the black market.
In pleading guilty, Cabrera, Skeldon, Free, John Doubleday, Swan and Wildenfels admitted that, between February 2017 and June 2018, they either provided their personal identifying information for the purpose of having fictitious prescriptions for oxycodone created in their names or referred co-conspirators for the purpose of having fictitious prescriptions for oxycodone written in their co-conspirators’ names. The prescriptions were then filled at area pharmacies and a portion of oxycodone pills obtained with those prescriptions were subsequently sold on the black market. Additionally, in pleading guilty, Jarrod Doubleday admitted to filling fictitious prescriptions for oxycodone in his own name between April 2017 and May 2017. And, in pleading guilty, Foret admitted to forging prescriptions for oxycodone in her own name and in the name of her co-conspirators between February 2015 and October 2016, which were ultimately filled.
U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk for the Eastern District of Louisiana set sentencing for Cabrera, Skeldon, Free, Doubleday and Swan on Jan. 24, 2019, and for Doubleday, Foret and Wildenfels on Feb. 7, 2019.
This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, the DEA and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Trial Attorney Jared Hasten of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Myles Ranier of the Eastern District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in 12 cities across the country, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.