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July 16, 2018

GEORGIA, VIRGINIA 'ILLEGALS' caught with $100,000 in crystal meth at Pikeville Motel 

 

A Virginia woman and a Georgia man who may be in the country illegally, were indicted this week by a Pike grand jury after the Pikeville Police Department interrupted a “major trafficking operation” involving crystal methamphetamine on Tuesday.

Gonzalez and Casey (EKBS photo)Gonzalez and Casey (EKBS photo)Officers with the Pikeville Police Department located Jeremy Otto Gonzalez, 25, of Mableton, Georgia, and Amanda Casey, 22, of Hurley, Virginia, allegedly in possession of 26 ounces of crystal methamphetamine inside of a room at the Brookshire Inn Tuesday morning.

During the investigation, officers uncovered a backpack in the room which held a shoe box, inside of which was a plastic bag which, Pike Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Bartley said, held more than 26 ounces of high quality crystal methamphetamine. According to Bartley, the street value for the crystal meth would be between $75,000 and $100,000.

“The PPD did excellent work in this case. This is probably 500 or more individual doses that were ready to be distributed in our area. The officers interrupted that and kept that off of the street,” Bartley said. “They very likely saved somebody’s life and, without question, helped stop some people from feeding their addiction with this drug.”

Pikeville Police Capt. Ricky Younce and officers Billy Ratliff and Tim Roberts had been dispatched to the Brookshire just after 3 a.m. Tuesday after people at the hotel reported hearing fighting inside one of the rooms.

A clerk at the hotel told officers she had received “several complaints” about people fighting inside of the room and she had attempted to check on the two people inside but no one would open the door, the citation in the case said.

“When (the officers) went in, they found Casey lying in the bed unresponsive,” Pike Commowealth’s Attorney Rick Bartley. “But, they are not sure if she was just acting like she was there asleep, because once one of the officers started shaking her to try to wake her up and determine if she was alive, she immediately woke up and started trying to grab a wallet that was lying nearby.”

Bartley said officers saw evidence of drug use inside of the room and moved to secure the hotel room.

“They began finding more evidence of drug use, such as pipes and a butane lighter which are commonly used to smoke meth,” Bartley said. “Officers also found small plastic bags, which are used to sell meth in small amounts, and a set of digital scales, which is used to weight out amounts for trafficking.”

According to Bartley, the amount of crystal meth that was found, the high quality of the crystal meth and the relative young ages of Gonzalez and Casey raised major red flags.

“These two people are very young — they are in their 20s. How do they have the financial resources to be carrying $100,000 in crystal meth? Obviously, they don’t,” Bartley said. “There is somebody else that is supplying this drug to them. I am really curious as to who is supplying this drug and what expected to get in return.”

Those are questions investigators are attempting to piece together, without assistance from Gonzalez or Casey.

“The case is still being very actively investigated by the PPD to determine those answers. Neither of those two are cooperating with the investigation,” Bartley said.

By Chase Ellis
Appalachian News-Express

 

 

June 16, 2018

OPERATION SYNTHETIC OPIOID SURGE:

Duncan’s district encompasses the 67 easternmost counties in Kentucky, with a population of about 2.2 million, and includes the cities of Lexington, Covington, Frankfort, Ashland, Pikeville, Somerset and London...

U.S. Department of Justice takes aim at Eastern Kentucky opioid crisis with new initiative


Eastern Kentucky is one of 10 regions nationwide that will be part of a new initiative announced by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat the opioid crisis.

OPERATION SYNTHETIC OPIOID SURGE seeks to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in high-impact areas and to identify wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers, according to U. S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Robert M. Duncan Jr., who was raised in Inez and is now a district federal prosecutor is set to take on the opioid epidemic in his native eastern kentucky.Robert M. Duncan Jr., who was raised in Inez and is now a district federal prosecutor is set to take on the opioid epidemic in his native eastern kentucky.

According to DOJ, the department is launching an enforcement surge in 10 judicial districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates, including the Eastern District of Kentucky. In addition, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Executive Office will send an additional two-year, term Assistant United States Attorney to each participating district to assist with drug-related prosecutions.

Each participating United States Attorney’s Office will choose a specific county and prosecute every readily provable case involving the distribution of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of drug quantity. This will involve a coordinated DEA Special Operations Division operation to insure leads from street-level cases are used to identify larger scale distributors. Operation S.O.S. was inspired by a promising initiative of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida that involved Manatee County, just south of Tampa.

“Prosecuting opioid traffickers is one of the most important priorities for my Office,” said Robert M. Duncan, Jr., U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “We appreciate the Department providing us with additional resources to focus on this significant problem. We will work in partnership with our colleagues in law enforcement, including the DEA, the Lexington Police Department, and the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, to reduce the supply of these deadly drugs.”

“When it comes to synthetic opioids, there is no such thing as a small case,” Sessions said. “In 2016, synthetic opioids killed more Americans than any other kind of drug. Three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal – that’s not even enough to cover up Lincoln’s face on a penny. Our prosecutors in Manatee County, Florida, have shown that prosecuting seemingly small synthetic opioids cases can have a big impact and save lives, and we want to replicate their success in the districts that need it most.”

The Middle District of Florida committed to prosecuting every readily provable drug distribution case involving synthetic opioids in Manatee County, regardless of drug quantity, leading to indictments of 45 traffickers of synthetic opioids.

From the last six months of 2016 to the last six months of 2017, overdoses dropped by 77.1 percent and deaths dropped by 74.2 percent. Overall, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office went from responding to 11 overdoses a day to an average now of less than one per day.

“The results of the Manatee County initiative have set a high bar,” Duncan said. “With the additional resources provided by the Department, and through our strong law enforcement partnerships, we will enhance our efforts to combat this problem and provide meaningful help to our community.”

Duncan’s district encompasses the 67 easternmost counties in Kentucky, with a population of about 2.2 million, and includes the cities of Lexington, Covington, Frankfort, Ashland, Pikeville, Somerset and London.

Other states participating in the initiative are Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maine, California, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

 

 

July 12, 2018

Paulus may get new trial, however

Paulus will keep seeking an acquittal as the case continues, said his attorney

A panel of federal judges has reinstated the criminal conviction of an Ashland physician accused of performing unnecessary heart procedures in order to run up profits.

The appeals judges said that while they would not fault a doctor for misreading an angiogram, the issue in Paulus’ case was whether he lied, not whether he and other doctors disagreed on test results. Paulus is shown in a file photo from 2015.The appeals judges said that while they would not fault a doctor for misreading an angiogram, the issue in Paulus’ case was whether he lied, not whether he and other doctors disagreed on test results. Paulus is shown in a file photo from 2015.The appeals court decision left open the possibility that Richard E. Paulus, who retired after coming under investigation, could receive a new trial.

For years, Paulus was a high-profile cardiologist at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, at one point leading the nation in the total amount billed to Medicare for heart procedures, according to a court record.

King’s Daughters received more than $30 million for surgeries performed by Paulus from 2006 to 2012, and in turn paid him $10 million from 2010 through 2013, the court record said.

However, a federal grand jury indicted Paulus in 2015 on charges that he put false information in patients’ records to justify surgeries that the patients didn’t actually need, including putting in stents to open blocked arteries.

Paulus allegedly misrepresented how badly patients’ arteries were blocked and performed hundreds of unneeded procedures.

Prosecution witnesses testified that Paulus “systematically recorded severe blockages” when special X-rays called angiograms showed little or no blockages, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said in a decision.

Paulus denied wrongdoing, but a jury convicted him on 11 charges in October 2016.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning, who handled the trial, later set aside the verdict, acquitting Paulus.

Bunning ruled the evidence showed that in reading an angiogram, doctors can reach different conclusions about how badly a patient’s artery is blocked.

That means the degree of blockage, called stenosis, is a subjective medical opinion, not an objective fact that can be confirmed or contradicted, Bunning said.

As a result, a reasonable jury could not conclude Paulus made false statements about blockages in his patients’ arteries, Bunning said.

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit overturned Bunning’s ruling in a decision filed in late June, ruling that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to support a conviction by the jury.

The appeals court said Bunning improperly applied the law in ruling that angiogram interpretations can’t be false.

The appeals panel said that the degree of stenosis is a fact capable of being proven or disproven, meaning a doctor could be convicted for lying about it.

“A doctor who deliberately inflates the blockage he sees on an angiogram has told a lie; if he does so to bill a more expensive procedure, then he has also committed fraud,” the appeals panel said in its ruling. “Even state-of-the-art scientific measurements may sometimes be imprecise. But in these circumstances, it is up to the jury — not the court — to decide whether the government’s proof is worthy of belief.”

The appeals judges said that while they would not fault a doctor for misreading an angiogram, the issue in Paulus’ case was whether he lied, not whether he and other doctors disagreed on test results.

Bunning also conditionally ordered a new trial for Paulus.

The appeals court said Bunning did not adequately justify that decision. It sent the case back to him for further consideration.

If Bunning still believes the jury’s guilty verdict was not justified after reviewing the appeals court ruling, the appeals court said, he should provide a detailed explanation that could be reviewed.

Paulus will keep seeking an acquittal as the case continues, said his attorney, Robert S. Bennett.

“This has got a long way to go,” Bennett said.

In a separate federal case, King’s Daughters agreed in May 2014 to pay the government $40.9 million to settle claims that it knew Paulus and other doctors were performing surgeries that were not medically justified.

The hospital did not admit wrongdoing, but agreed to internal reforms and to increased monitoring of its claims to federal health care programs.

 

 

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