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Prescription drug ring had Cumming ties

Nine plead guilty in federal court

POSTED: July 1, 2014 12:05 a.m.

ATLANTA – Six of 11 defendants, including the alleged leader, who pleaded guilty last week in federal court for their roles in a north Georgia painkiller distribution ring are from Cumming.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Georgia, the defendants took part in a scheme to obtain and sell painkillers using forged prescriptions. 

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said that many of the defendants “were themselves addicts, some of whom became addicted after receiving a lawful prescription for oxycodone.”

“Some of them even engaged in further criminal behavior to feed their own addiction,” she said. “These criminal acts also perpetuated the addiction of others by putting the drugs on the street. It’s a terrible cycle.”      

According to Yates, the charges and other information presented in court, Holly Worley of Cumming forged prescriptions for oxycodone using the names of real doctors. 

The other 10 defendants would then present the forged prescriptions at pharmacies across Atlanta and north Georgia to acquire what appeared to be legitimately obtained pain medication. 

Once the orders were filled, Worley and Jason Johns of Gainesville would deliver the pills to others for sale elsewhere, according to court documents. Worley rewarded the participants with cash or oxycodone pills.

All 11 defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess oxycodone with intent to distribute. Nine of 11 were sentenced earlier this month as follows:

* Worley, 29, eight years in prison

* Johns, 30, eight years, seven months in prison

* Kelly Webb Ardizone, 26, of Cumming, two years, three months in prison

* Michael Ardizone, 28, of Cumming, one year in prison, in addition to receiving credit for an additional 18 months served

* Keva Lee Hamrick, 23, of Cumming, five years on probation

* Shayna Marie Massara, 23, of Alpharetta, five years of probation with eight months of home confinement

* Starnes Newsom, 24, of Suwanee, two years, six months in prison

* Andrew Derek Johnson, 30, of Lawrenceville, two years in prison

* James Cory Linder, 24, of Roswell, two years in prison

In addition, James Brandon Sweatman, 27, and Brian Thompson Myers, 33, both of Cumming, are scheduled to be sentenced July 7.

Several of those sentenced also face years of supervision upon release from custody.

“This case demonstrates the cycle of harm caused by the abuse of prescription drugs,” Yates said. “Through the combination of incarceration and substance abuse treatment, we hope to break this cycle so that the defendants can become productive members of society.”

According to Yates’ office, the case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the sheriff’s offices of Forsyth and Dawson counties and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency.

It was one of three cases successfully prosecuted in the past year that the office says reflect the broad spectrum of criminal activity associated with prescription drug abuse.

“The abuse of prescription drugs and its related criminal activity is a significant public safety problem in many Georgia communities, one we have made a central focus of our office,” Yates said.

“This problem is too big to prosecute away and requires solutions from doctors, pharmacists, legislators and public health officials. But we are committed to prosecuting and punishing those who are the primary contributors.”

C. Richard Allen, director of the state’s drugs and narcotics agency, said in a statement that Oxycodone and other opioids have risen over the past decade to be “the most abused and overdose related drugs” in Georgia.

“Five of the top eight drugs found in overdose deaths are opioids,” Allen said. “Of those eight, Oxycodone products are No. 2 on this list. Ten of the top 25 most prescribed drugs are opioids.”


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