WINTER HAVEN – In yet another reminder that one of Florida’s thriving industries these days is the illegal sale of prescription pills, Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested a restaurant owner as part of an investigation into what is being described as a large-scale pain pill trafficking ring known as “Operation Key Chain.”
Tiffany Olaitan, 40, of 1096 Care Free Cove Drive, Winter Haven, was arrested on Friday and charged in connection to the on-going investigation of this alleged pain pill ring, which detectives say was dismantled on Tuesday, March 6. Olaitan was charged with conspiracy to traffic Oxycodone, a pain killing medication, in excess of 200 grams.
The investigation that became known as “Operation Key Chain” started back in July 2011, when Polk County Sheriff’s detectives got a tip that a local business was a front for an illegal pill mill operation. That business was Key Medical Clinic, located at 1560 6th St. SW in Winter Haven, which is owned and operated by Patricia Ann “Trish” Osbourn, 46, of 105 Byron Place, Winter Haven.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office began working with agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and representatives from the Florida Department of Health on this investigation, and six months later, detectives ended up arresting eight people after serving five search warrants on March 6.
During the investigation – which the sheriff’s office said is ongoing — detectives say they learned that Olaitan was responsible for filling out and signing the doctor’s signature on many of the stolen prescriptions that other players within this operation had been passing around.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Olaitan’s arrest helps send a message that if legal prescription pills are sold illegally, except to face the consequences.
“On March 6th, we sent a clear message to all those connected to the Key Medical Clinic and its owner, Patricia ‘Trish’ Osbourn,” Judd said. “We won’t tolerate illegal ‘pill mills’ in Polk County, and anyone who has worked with Patricia Osbourn putting dangerous drugs on the street will go to jail.”
Olaitan’s arrest highlights the fact that in Florida, legally prescribed drugs have become as much of a problem as illegal ones, and one of the most common names when it comes to the diversion of legal pharmaceuticals for illegal use is Oxycodone.
The growing problem of prescription drug abuse has become a major concern for local law enforcement agencies. Orange County has already imposed a moratorium on new pain management clinics, and Osceola County commissioners are considering a similar ordinance.
So-called “pill mills” are where doctors write prescriptions for pain killing medications that in some cases can be highly addictive. The abuse of prescription drugs is considered one of the nation’s fastest growing drug problems.
The Center for Drug Free Living Addictions Receiving Facility in Orlando has reported that addictions to heroin have, until recently, made up 47 percent of the patient base at this forty-bed inpatient detoxification stabilization facility, while pharmaceuticals – and that included all the pain pills – was at 50 percent. By October 2010, those numbers jumped to 83 percent for pain pills, 15 percent for heroin and 2 percent for Methadone.
It’s been estimated that pill mills can bring in $25,000 a day, and these clinics are particularly prevalent in south Florida. Broward and Palm Beach counties have 200 known pill mills. Some even advertise “No wait, walk in’s welcome for chronic pain” out front.
With Florida’s reputation for these pill mills on the rise, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has released data showing that 98 of the top 100 doctors dispensing Oxycodone nationally are in Florida, concentrated in Miami, Tampa, and Orlando, and that 126 million pills of Oxycodone are dispensed through Florida pharmacies.
The arrests in Polk County demonstrate how widespread this issue has become.
Olaitan was arrested at her place of business, Fathers House Restaurant at 2862 Recker Highway in Winter Haven. Elizabeth “Liz” Sykes, 39, of 250 W. Terrace Avenue in Lake Alfred, got arrested on March 6, and charged with conspiracy to traffic in Oxycodone over 200 grams. Sykes is a co-owner of the restaurant.
“Inside the restaurant’s office, detectives located lists of names of persons believed to have been passing the prescriptions and documents, which appeared to be practiced signatures of doctor’s names which appear on the stolen prescriptions,” noted Donna C. Wood, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the arrests.
She noted that detectives also seized $2,000 at the restaurant.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.