The takedown of a local prescription pill ring and its Detroit-area supplier has crippled the painkiller drug supply chain that had generated around $3 million in profits, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn asserted on Tuesday.
A former Detroit police officer accused of being the major supplier of these drugs coming into Athens and surrounding counties has agreed to be extradited to Ohio to face a 12-count indictment, with his arraignment scheduled for Aug. 11 in Athens County Common Pleas Court.
Brandon Jorge Allen, 29, of Detroit, was arrested last week at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport after being indicted by an Athens County grand jury on 12 felony counts including trafficking in drugs and racketeering.
Allen is the alleged supplier of a Glouster-based prescription pill ring for which multiple defendants already have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to between eight and 10 years in prison for their roles.
Still awaiting trial is alleged local ringleader Derek M. Gyure, his girlfriend Kendra Sharrer, alleged “protector” of the outfit, former Chauncey police chief Charles A. Wachenschwanz; and Allen.
Blackburn estimated Tuesday that the series of busts has taken between $2.1 million and $3 million worth of prescription painkillers out of the local illegal drug supply.
He said that the last alleged sale to Gyure came in around $66,000 at $22 per pill, which Gyure was selling for $34 per (Oxycodone) pill, turning that into $102,000. So he was making $36,000, in addition to being fronted 400 pills, which would have generated more profit, Blackburn explained.
“So the last sale would’ve generated about $114,000 worth of sales in Athens County,” he said. “That was happening twice a month, sometimes four times a month. We’ve estimated, into Athens County, $2.1 million is the bottom number. Mr. Gyure got at least 70,000, 30-milligram pills.”
Blackburn said that Gyure might have gotten as much as 100,000 pills since 2009, which puts the earnings of the drug outfit closer to $3.4 million.
“The problem is, just in general, a lot of drug dealers are dealing to support their own habit,” Blackburn said, so though it’s unknown it is entirely possible that Gyure and others were consuming at least part of their profits.
He said that he’s now told the price of a 30-mg Oxycodone pill has gone up since the bust of this drug ring, rising from $34 to between $40 and $45.
“So we’ve taken away a large amount of supply, and therefore the cost has gone up,” Blackburn said. “It would be a really great time for anyone considering using pills to contact Health Recovery Services.”
Blackburn said drugs such as heroin are still available in Athens County, but the prescription painkillers now seem to be coming from more local sources, such as area residents who have prescriptions and are selling them.
“I don’t think we have a large supplier of pills right now but I will say that I’m sure there are some people who are stupid enough to try to do this again,” he said. “I don’t know how else to warn them. These are really bad decisions to make.”
He estimated that Gyure, if convicted on all counts, could face more than 30 years in prison. He said it’s still too early to say what sentence Allen might face.
Blackburn has put the cost of the investigation of this drug ring at around $100,000 and said Tuesday that most of that comes in the form of salary for investigators from his own office.
“The biweekly payroll in my office is over $30,000,” he said. “If I’ve got half my office working on this at 40 hours, that’s $15,000 plus their benefits. So some of this just kind of adds up on its own.”
The additional out-of-pocket expenses, other than drug buys, come in at a little over $10,000, Blackburn said.
“The $100,000 number has been from my office for the most part,” he said. “But it’s spread out among the agencies when it comes to certain expenses. My law enforcement trust fund and (Furtherance of Justice) fund, which are designed for large-scale investigations, have paid for the out-of-state travel.”
Blackburn and his staff traveled to South Carolina to collect intelligence in the case and were in Detroit on Friday to help execute a search warrant on Allen’s residence with multiple law-enforcement agencies including the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
The search found several cell phones, a 2014 Mercedes Benz (valued at more than $100,000), a cash-counting machine, several receipts for large cash purchases, and other evidentiary items.
Blackburn said that forfeiture will be requested from a judge for items of value in the case, and the proceeds of that will come to Athens County. (The Mercedes is leased, so they won’t get that forfeiture, though they will seek to forfeit a second car.)
“It depends on what the property was and what we decide to do with it. This investigation was centered out of this office,” he said. “Anything that is eventually forfeited will be forfeited to Athens County.”
Allen’s arrest in Atlanta occurred after Blackburn’s detectives learned he was going to leave the country by tracking him on social media. Blackburn then worked directly with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security and U.S. Customs to flag his passport and have him arrested at the Atlanta Hartsfield airport while trying to flee.
Blackburn worked in cooperation with the Athens County Sheriff’s Office; police departments from Athens, Ohio University, Middleport, and Nelsonville; and the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition, during the multi-month probe, Blackburn said he enlisted the help of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, prosecutors in Wood County, Ohio and in Wayne County, Michigan, the Michigan State Police Intelligence Unit, the Detroit Police Department, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina, police officers in West Virginia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.