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Archive for Friday, January 28, 2005

3 guilty in military drug ring

Insulin-selling conspiracy targeted Army pharmacies nationwide

January 28, 2005

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— Three people have pleaded guilty to being part of a conspiracy to steal drugs from Army pharmacies across the country to resell on the Internet.

Max H. Thomas III, 22; John W. Cooper, 29, and his wife, Donna L. Cooper, 32, pleaded guilty Wednesday before U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten in Wichita. Thomas was stationed at Fort Riley, and John Cooper, was at Fort Knox, Ky.

Thomas and the Coopers are among 11 people facing charges in an alleged military drug ring in 2001 and 2002 that earned more than $2.3 million.

Prosecutors said pharmacy technicians were recruited at military installations in Georgia, Louisiana and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which serves the Washington, D.C., area.

The alleged mastermind, Ronald A. Ausberry, who was stationed at Fort Lee, Va., and other defendants are expected to plead in coming weeks.

According to the plea agreements filed in court, Ausberry was at Fort Riley when he recruited Cooper and Thomas, who were Army pharmacy technicians, to steal insulin, insulin test strips and other pharmaceuticals. Thomas worked with Ausberry at Fort Riley. Cooper admitted to shipping the stolen material to Fort Riley. Donna Cooper was charged because she knew of the scheme and did not alert authorities.

According to the plea agreements, Thomas and John Cooper knew Ausberry was taking the materials, repackaging them and selling them to wholesale sources on the Internet. Prosecutors say those buyers, located in Florida, Pennsylvania and other states, would then sell the goods to consumers.

"Although the stolen insulin was neither stored nor shipped in a temperature controlled environment, the United States is not aware of any reported adverse physical effects or injuries suffered by any consumer who eventually purchased the stolen insulin on the open market," the plea agreements read.

John Cooper and Thomas said they were paid for each vial of insulin and each box of insulin strips. The men said that Ausberry would then double the price and resell them.

When they are sentenced April 14, John Cooper and Thomas each face up to five years in prison and $250,000 fines for conspiracy to ship stolen goods in interstate commerce. Donna Cooper could serve up to three years in prison.

Thomas pleaded guilty to an additional conspiracy charge that could draw another five-year prison term.

Besides prison time, which in the federal system does not allow for parole, the Coopers and Thomas each agreed to restitution and forfeiture of assets.

The Coopers must pay $220,160 in restitution -- the estimated amount they received for the drugs. They also must give up additional property and assets of $552,669 for their share of the total profit.

Thomas must pay restitution of $36,804 with additional asset forfeitures of $100,270.

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