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Hot-Spot    Friday, July 7
Prescription Drug Dealing On The Rise   11-27-2007

In paradise - around Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. - there's an epidemic.

"Upper-middle class individuals from good families, solid families that are becoming addicted to pharmaceutical drugs," said Sgt. Lisa McElhaney of the Broward County Sheriff's office.

McElhaney told CBS News anchor Katie Couric that Florida's a hot-spot.

"The accessibility to these drugs is tremendous," she said. "The supply is right there."

Right there in the family medicine cabinet.

And increasingly, kids are trading drugs at school. Kids as young as middle school.

Then there are the drug dealers. And they have a big advantage in Florida.

While 35 other states have voted for a centralized computer system to monitor all prescriptions, Florida has no such law.

That's led to the opening and brazen advertising of dozens of roadside pain-management clinics.

"We have individuals from Massachusetts, Ohio, West Virginia driving down to Ft. Lauderdale ... to visit pain clinics and obtain large quantities of drugs," McElhaney said.

They make the trip because at some of the clinics they meet up with corrupt doctors like Raul Jiminez.

"I was accomodating. You want this medication. This is what you need?" Jiminez said. "Fine. You don't really need it? Well, I'll give it to you anyway."

Dr. Jiminez was essentially a doctor and a drug dealer?

"Yes, he was a licensed drug dealer," McElhaney said.

Jiminez was the man to see - turning the honest medical practice of pain management into street-corner drug dealing.

"We wanted our market share," he said. "And you know, we didn't wanna lose a patient."

And the patients know exactly what is required on their end to close the deal.

"They tell the doctor whatever they want and they walk out with a combination, or a cocktail of drugs," McElhaney explained.

Twenty-seven-year-old Jason Arthur knows all about conning doctors. But this addict-turned-drug dealer took the scam to an even higher level.

"I suppose you could say it was a business," Arthur said.

Like any good businessman, Arthur kept meticulous records: notebooks filled with details of his drug deals and his false identities.

"I was doing so many names and so many prescriptions, I had to keep them straight somehow," he said.

On his best days, Arthur would hit 10 pharmacies, getting thousands of pills to sell. His specialty was forging doctors' signatures.

"He not only was forging them; he manufactured his own prescriptions," McElhaney explalined.

So he had the prescription pads made?

"Yes, and they were very good," she said.

The dealer and the doctor. Neither man seemed to take their crimes very seriously. But McElhaney's prescription drug unit did.

"They found my notebooks in the car," Arthur said. "You know, blank prescriptions ... written prescriptions."

He faces 75 years in prison. And Raul Jiminez is no longer a doctor. He's been stripped of his medical license, and now works in a gas station.

"And I'm facing 75 years for prescription drug trafficking," he said.

Sending dealers to prison is just part of stopping this epidemic of prescription drug abuse. According to McElhaney, the real answers start right at home.

"Lock up your medicines. These are dangerous, tempting substances to inquisitive children," she said. "Don't leave them where they accessible to kids."

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