The investigation of an elaborate scheme to obtain large amounts of prescription drugs in several eastern Missouri counties did not end with the sentencing of the apparent ringleader, authorities said.
“It’s definitely a ring,” said Detective Cody Robertson, a member of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit. “We’re still investigating.”
Angela L. Snider, 32, Labadie, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to concurrent three-year prison sentences in three separate cases in which she was charged with burglary, felony stealing and fraudulently attempting to obtain a controlled substance. The sentences were handed down between April 15 and April 22 in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Similar charges are pending against Snider in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
While Snider was sentenced only on one prescription fraud case here, investigators said she was at the top of an operation that used DEA numbers issued to doctors to purchase large amounts of the pain medication Vicadin multiple times over at least the last year.
“The magnitude of this was amazing,” said Washington Patrolman Mike Wissbaum, a reserve officer with the narcotics unit. Wissbaum was at the heart of the investigation which broke last summer after an employee at the local Walgreens pharmacy became suspicious about a prescription that was called in for the drug.
Wissbaum said Snider, along with her boyfriend, would call in a prescription for another person using a doctor’s DEA number and then pick up the medicine at the pharmacy. Most calls were made from a phone at the hospital to make it appear more legitimate.
The name of the boyfriend has not been released because he has not been charged in the investigation.
Wissbaum said last summer police set up surveillance after receiving a report of a suspicious prescription and stopped Snider as she was leaving. Inside the car they found a stolen license plate and a tool used to de-magnetize security tabs on store merchandise.
Authorities later obtained a search warrant for a home in New Haven where Snider was staying at the time and there they found a large amount of items stolen from various stores, Wissbaum said. The officer said Snider and the boyfriend allegedly had been selling the stolen goods through an Internet website.
Also found at the home were empty pill bottles linked to the prescription fraud.
Officers then obtained a search warrant and seized cellphones belonging to Snider and the boyfriend which had information about the various drug transactions, Wissbaum said.
Authorities said that Snider used the names and DEA numbers of seven different doctors and called in prescriptions for 42 different people, giving their names, addresses and Social Security numbers.
Robertson said he’s continuing to track down and question those individuals whose names were listed on the fake prescriptions.
“They will be considered victims/suspects until they are cleared,” Robertson told The Missourian.
That could lead to additional people being charged in the operation, he noted.
Little Black Book
Later in the investigation, Wissbaum said a search warrant was obtained for a mobile home in Labadie where Snider and her boyfriend had moved. Officers seized more than $3,000 of stolen merchandise, Wissbaum said, but more importantly they found a black book that included a complete list of all the transactions.
“That book helped Ballwin police seal their case against Snider,” Wissbaum said. Police in Ballwin had arrested the woman in an attempt to pass a fake prescription, he noted.
“The more I investigated, it went deeper and deeper,” Wissbaum remarked. He said when the investigation started, police had information about four doctors and about 20 fake patients.
In all, investigators believe Snider and her accomplice were involved in “at least” 144 prescription transactions or attempted transactions in Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, Warren and St. Louis counties, and they even went into Illinois, according to Wissbaum.
The fake prescriptions were passed at about 40 pharmacies, mainly Walgreens, Wal-Mart and CVS, Wissbaum said.
He said the suspects were able to obtain the federal DEA numbers of doctors off of prescriptions they got through “pill shopping.”
The one thing investigators have not determined is how they got Social Security numbers of the fake patients, he noted.