DEA drops drug charges because of cost of maintaining evidence

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration dropped pending charges against a Panamanian accused of illegally selling massive amounts of prescription drugs. The DEA does not normally drop federal drug charges but authorities have not detained this defendant and the cost of maintaining evidence against him has apparently become enormous.

This defendant, a Panamanian doctor, fled Miami and returned to Panama in 2004 after the DEA began investigating him. The DEA accused him of participating in an "Internet pharmacy" scheme in which doctors approved prescriptions for pain killers, diet pills, and other drugs without actually meeting or examining patients. The DEA prosecuted a number of other physicians in the case.

Because Panama does not extradite its citizens, the doctor has remained there since 2004. The DEA normally maintains pending charges against suspects who have fled the country in case they later return to the United States. In this case, however, the cost of maintaining the enormous volumes of evidence against this doctor has become unreasonably large.

The DEA has over 400,000 documents against the doctor, comprising two terabytes of data. This evidence takes up 5 percent of the agency's server storage capacity. Because the DEA has no strong reason to believe that it will be able to capture the doctor, it asked a federal district court for permission to dismiss the case.

The judge granted the government's request with prejudice. The government will not be able to bring these charges again. However, other charges remain pending against the same doctor for Medicare fraud and narcotics offenses. The doctor remains one of Florida's most wanted criminals.

Source: Fox News Dallas-Fort Worth, "Drug charges dropped because of too much evidence," Ryan J. Foley, Aug. 15, 2012

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