LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) — Officials say Nikita Neal, 43, of Little Rock, a former student trainee at the VA John L. McClellan Memorial Hospital in Little Rock, pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal and distribute the prescription opioid oxycodone.
Neal’s co-conspirators, pharmacy technicians Alisha Pagan, 34, of Mabelvale, and Satishkumar “Steve” Patel, 45, of North Little Rock, pleaded guilty to the same charge in August and September, respectively.
United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes accepted Neal’s plea on Thursday. A superseding indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in February 2017, charged the trio with eight counts stemming from a scheme in which the three ordered oxycodone, hydrocodone, Viagra, Cialis, and promethazine syrup with codeine and then diverted the controlled substances from the VA for street distribution.
This investigation began in June 2016, when the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) received a report that large amounts of unaccounted-for prescription medications were charged to VA accounts. Patel, a pharmacy technician, used his VA access to a medical supplier’s web portal to order and divert 4 thousand oxycodone pills, 3,300 hydrocodone pills, 308 ounces of promethazine with codeine syrup, and more than 14 thousand Viagra and Cialis pills, at a cost to the VA of approximately $77,700 dollars, with a street value of more than $160,000.
Patel then falsified payment invoices to avoid detection. During the course of the investigation, which included controlled deliveries of oxycodone at the direction of law enforcement, VAOIG and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) determined that Patel was distributing the medications to Pagan, also a pharmacy technician, who in turn distributed a portion of the drugs to Neal.
Once Patel ordered the narcotics, he communicated with Pagan via text message to arrange transfer of the drugs to Pagan. After obtaining the drugs, Pagan then delivered the drugs to others, including Neal. Neal in turn passed on the drugs to a street-level distributor.
Pagan pleaded guilty on August 2, 2017, and Patel pleaded guilty on September 28, 2017. All three will be sentenced by Judge Holmes at a later date.
Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment, with a possible fine of up to $1,000,000, and not less than three years of supervised release.
The case against Patel, Pagan, and Neal was investigated by the VAOIG and DEA, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hunter Bridges.
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