Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Fort Riley at center of insulin scam

Diabetes supplies stolen from base

June 24, 2004

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— A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted 11 people -- including four current or former Fort Riley soldiers -- for their alleged involvement in a scheme to steal $2.3 million worth of insulin from U.S. Army bases and sell it on the black market.

Eric Melgren, U.S. attorney for Kansas, said the scheme involved nine Army pharmacy technicians who controlled insulin supplies at pharmacies at Fort Riley, four other Army bases, and the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington.

He said the scheme was devised by former Fort Riley pharmacy technician Ronald Ausberry, who is accused of recruiting the others to take part in the thefts.

Prosecutors have begun forfeiture action on a $218,000 home that Ausberry owns in Virginia and a 55-acre piece of land worth about $40,000.

Melgren said the investigation that led to the indictments stemmed from a February traffic stop in Topeka where an officer found a large amount of insulin in a car driven by Eric A. Hernandez, a pharmacy technician stationed at Fort Riley.

Special Agent Michael Parker of the U.S. Army criminal investigation division said more than 40,000 vials of insulin were taken by the group. The indictment said the vials were sent to co-conspirators in Arizona and Florida.

Melgren said a vial of insulin might cost $70 when purchased through legitimate channels.

"These individuals were selling it for substantially less than that -- possibly less than half of that," he said.

Melgren said investigators are still trying to find out how the group sold the drugs.

"We don't know a lot about the buyers," he said. "There is a black market for insulin. We believe these co-conspirators managed to tap in to it."

Melgren said the pharmacy technicians were in charge of the insulin supplies at their pharmacies, and that they would simply order more insulin when supplies ran low. Because insulin is not a prescription drug, Melgren said, it is not tightly regulated.

Parker said the Army has taken steps to impose tighter control over Army pharmacies. He said nine of the defendants are regular Army soldiers who became pharmacy technicians by taking advanced training courses.

He said the group also stole a large amount of supply strips that diabetics use to monitor blood-sugar levels.

The indicted Army technicians are: Ausberry, 27, of Petersburg, Va.; Hernandez, 21, who is stationed at Fort Riley; Antoine D. Brown, 25, of Illesheim, Germany, who was formerly stationed at Fort Polk, La.; Stefan M. Carty, 33, of Wheaton, Md., who is stationed at Walter Reed Hospital; John W. Cooper, 28, of Elizabethtown, Ky., who is stationed at Fort Knox, Ky.; Michael M. Harper, 29, of Augusta, Ga., who is stationed at Fort Gordan, Ga.; Hazru Kishun, 27, of Manhattan, Kan., who is stationed at Fort Riley; Wakan G. Stamm, 28, of Leesville, La., who is stationed at Fort Polk, La.; and Max H. Thomas, 22, who is stationed at Fort Riley

Also indicted were Sabrina Ausberry, 22, the wife of Ronald Ausberry, and Donna Cooper, age unknown, the wife of John Cooper.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The 11 are scheduled to make first appearances in U.S. District Court in Wichita on July 12.

If convicted, each of the 11 will face a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

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