DEA assistant special agent in charge Brian Boyle explains there are hundreds of pain clinics often called pill mills in states like Florida where people can easily get prescription drugs like Viocodin and Oxycodin filled right on the spot-often with no questions asked.
Those drugs then travel across the country through a direct pipeline to the northeast for a huge profit.
"The prescription pills in Florida, you can buy them for anywhere between three and seven dollars a pill. You bring them here to Connecticut and sell them for about 40 dollars a pill," Boyle says.
In April, federal agents in Stamford, Conn. caught a man with 6-thousand Oxycodone pills. The so-called drug tourist allegedly took advantage of lax laws in Florida governing pain clinics for big business in Connecticut.
The suppliers' tactic is to send large groups of people into pain clinics with cash and medical cards to fake illnesses and buy pills.
"We've had individuals bring up to 6 to 7 thousand pills at a time three times a week. You add it up and it's 200, 300 thousand dollars being made on a weekly basis," Boyle says.
Now Florida officials are cracking down and tightening up laws-joining a chain of statewide databases that monitor who is prescribing what to whom and how often.
"That program is an early warning system to see who is prescribing an alarming number of those drugs and what patients are going to various pill mills even in the same day," says Conn. us attorney David Fein. "Without a drug monitoring system it's hard to track that. Florida now has that but until recently they didn't."
In April, Fein prosecuted local TSA officers for allegedly helping traffickers move pills from Florida.
"We had traffickers bring up 6 thousand pills three times a week. Flying from Palm Beach International to Westchester County Airport," says Fein.
The consequences of the illegal trade are far reaching. Twenty thousand die ever year across the country from prescription drug abuse, according to the center for disease control and prevention.
The worry is it's heading this way.
"Now we're seeing with the crackdown in Florida that prescription pill mills are moving to Connecticut," says Boyle.
But that's not the only way it's spreading.
"This is a type of crime and drugs that cut across all social classes," says Fein. We're seeing it in the suburbs as well as in the cities. We're seeing at the user level teenagers as well as their parents."