Using crowbars and axes, a street gang broke into 125 pharmacies to steal millions in prescription drugs for resale on the streets, NYPD officials said Wednesday. The scheme was so profitable, police said, that the robbers were able to buy a $200,000 Bentley to use as a getaway car.
Investigators said the 13 men broke in through ceilings and walls to pull off the heists and wore gloves and masks to avoid detection, often making off with a pharmacy’s supply of oxycodone. Pharmacies across the city were among the targets.
The suspects are accused of using the ill-gotten cash to buy cars, jewelry, watches and diamonds. Prosecutors submitted photos to the court of some of the suspects flashing wads of cash.
Federal prosecutors said cellphone records, a cooperating witness, video surveillance by police and even DNA evidence left behind at some scenes links the suspects to the burglary ring.
The suspects bought police scanners and each break-in had a lookout to help the gang monitor if police were onto them. FBI agents joined NYPD Major Case detectives in making the arrests Wednesday morning.
“Criminals who exploit drug addiction for profit will be pursued and prosecuted,” said NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
In addition to stealing prescription drugs, the crew allegedly stole cash, laptops and cell phones. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asked a federal judge to hold many of the 13 the suspects without bail, citing their risk of flight. Bharara accused the ring of contributing to the “growing prescription drug abuse epidemic” by selling the stolen drugs out on the street.
Charges include conspiracy to burglarize pharmacies, narcotics trafficking and three suspects face obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to intimidate a witness.
Information on lawyers for the suspects was not immediately available.