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Texas Healthcare Operators Arrested for Illegally Dispensing Nearly Four Million Opioid Pills

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Operators of Three Texas Pharmacies and Two Pain Clinics Arrested for Illegally Dispensing Nearly Four Million Opioid Pills

Three Houston-area pharmacists, a doctor, and a pharmacy technician have been arrested for allegedly running three pharmacies and two clinics as “pill mills;” distributing hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other controlled drugs without a legitimate medical purpose.

According to court documents, since January 2018, Chrisco Pharmacy (Chrisco), Keystone Pharmacy (Keystone), and Peoples Pharmacy (Peoples) illegally dispensed nearly four million pills of the Schedule II opioids hydrocodone and oxycodone. Keystone owner and pharmacist-in-charge Anthony Obute, 46, of Houston, was indicted yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for illegally distributing and dispensing hydrocodone and the Schedule IV muscle relaxer carisoprodol. According to the filed criminal complaint leading to Obute’s arrest on Dec. 2, Obute operated Keystone as a pill mill, illegally distributing hydrocodone and oxycodone. The complaint further alleges that from about September 2018 to about September 2020, Obute directed Keystone to purchase around 1.1 million of the highest-strength, short-acting hydrocodone and oxycodone pills commercially available, which he then sold to so-called “crew leaders,” or drug traffickers who pay individuals to pose as patients in order to obtain pills to sell onto the black market.

Ophelia Emeakoroha, 50, of Pearland, was arrested on Dec. 2 on a criminal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleging that Emeakoroha, the pharmacist-in-charge at Peoples, illegally distributed and dispensed hydrocodone and oxycodone. According to court documents, from about Jan. 1, 2019, to about Dec. 31, 2019, Emeakoroha caused Peoples to purchase around 250,000 of the highest-strength, short-acting hydrocodone and oxycodone pills commercially available, which she then sold to crew leaders in a scheme similar to Keystone’s.

Shivarajpur Ravi, M.D., 65, of Houston, was arrested on Dec. 2 on a criminal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleging that he operated two pill-mill clinics in the Houston area, which he used to illegally distribute and dispense hydrocodone and carisoprodol. According to court documents, undercover officers obtained illegitimate prescriptions from Ravi, once in 2020 at his clinic operating out of 12555 Ste. B Gulf Freeway in Houston, and again at a new clinic located at 3333 Bayshore Dr., Ste. 250, Pasadena, which he opened in 2021. The papers detail how crew leaders were observed paying for groups of patients, filling out their paperwork, and coaching them on what to say to the doctor as they waited to be seen. The 2020 purported consult with Ravi is alleged to have lasted less than two minutes, after which officers had the prescription filled at Keystone. In both cases, the visit ended with Ravi prescribing large quantities of hydrocodone and carisoprodol.

A few weeks prior to the arrests of Obute, Emeakoroha, and Ravi, Christopher Obaze, 61, of Richmond, and Eric Tubbe, 36, of Rosenberg, were arrested on charges brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas related to their alleged illicit operation of Chrisco as a pill mill. The eight-count indictment alleged that in doing so, Obaze and Tubbe conspired to illegally distribute and dispense hydrocodone and oxycodone, maintained Chrisco as a drug-involved premises in proximity to a facility for children, and laundered their ill-gotten gains, using the proceeds to promote the enterprise, depositing cash in amounts below $10,000 to avoid bank reporting requirements, and transferring the proceeds through numerous accounts to obscure the funds’ origins. Obaze was also charged with tax crimes. According to court documents, from around January 2018, to around October 2021, Obaze was the pharmacist-in-charge and Tubbe was a pharmacy technician at Chrisco, which the two men used as a front to purchase and then illegally sell around 2.25 million of the highest-strength short-acting hydrocodone and oxycodone pills commercially available. The indictment alleges that Obaze and Tubbe sold the pills, in bulk, directly to drug traffickers, without the involvement of doctors, prescriptions, or patients.

Federal charges related to the illegal distribution of Schedule II opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone, which all of the indicted defendants face, carry statutory maximums of 20 years in prison. Obaze and Tubbe are both charged with money laundering crimes that carry statutory maximums of 10 and 20 years in prison, while Obaze’s tax charges carry a statutory maximum of three years. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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Kano State Government File Fresh Charges Against Hanifa’s Killer

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Kano State Government has filed a fresh five-count charge to arraign Abdulmalik Tanko, Hanifa’s killer and his accomplices before a Kano State High Court.

Aisha Mahmoud, State’s Director Public Prosecution who disclosed this to newsmen after the case came up for mention at the Magistrate court explained that the government filed the charge at the High Court because the Magistrate court lacks the jurisdiction to handle the offences filed against the defendants due to the gravity of offences committed.

Aisha Mahmoud pointed out that an appeal was made to the court to remand the accused persons pending the hearing of the case at the high court.

The Magistrate court presided by Chief Magistrate Mohammed Jibrin granted the prayers and ordered the accused persons to be remanded in custody.

Chief Magistrate Jibril however adjourned the case to February 9, 2022.

The charges filed against Abdulmalik and his accomplice borders on criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, confinement and culpable homicide contrary to section 97, 274, 277, 221 of the Penal Code.

Recall that Abdulmalik Tanko and his accomplices are accused of kidnapping and Killing his five-year-old student Hanifa.

But, Abdulmalik Tanko, Hanifa’s killer confessed that after kidnapping his 5-year-old pupil, he took her to his house where he contacted her relatives and demanded a ransom of ₦6 million.

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Court Stop Federal Government From Deductions In The The Federation Account

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday stopped the federal government from further making deductions from the federation account to fund its own agencies not listed for direct allocation in the 1999 constitution (as amended).

Rivers State, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/511/2020 and instituted on its behalf by former president of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA, Joseph Daudu (SAN), had challenged the decision of the federal government to allocate funds directly from the federation account to fund some of its agencies, arguing that the decision violated section 162 of the 1999 constitution.

The Rivers State government also claimed that by the federal government’s unlawful action, it has deprived it substantial revenue from the federation account.

It prayed the court to nullify unlawful fund allocation from the federation account PTF.

The plaintiff also claimed that the levies imposed on companies operating in Nigeria by the federal government to be paid directly to the Nigeria Police Force Trust Fund instead of the Federation Account was also illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional because it has also deprived it of substantial revenue accruable to the state as taxes.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed in his judgement held that section 161 and section 162 of the 1999 constitution were glaringly breached by the federal government in making direct allocation to the Police Trust Fund from the federation account.

The court held that section 162 of the constitution is clear and unambiguous to the effect that only the federal, states and local governments shall be allocated funds directly from the federation account.

It added that section 4 of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act 2019 relied upon by the federal government to justify the unlawful deductions from the federation account is inconsistent with section 162 of the 1999 constitution which recognizes only the federal, states and local governments.

The judge ordered that the fund belonging to Rivers State which was used to fund Nigeria Police Trust fund by the federal government should be refunded to the state, but declined to extend a similar order of refund to the 35 remaining states on the ground that they were not parties in the suit and that Rivers State, as the plaintiff in the matter, did not file it on behalf of others.

The court upheld all arguments of counsel to Rivers State, Joseph Daudu (SAN), that where the provisions of the 1999 constitution are clear and unambiguous, they must be given their ordinary meanings

Justice Mohammed also agreed with Daudu that the federal government was completely wrong in the interpretation given to section 4 of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act to the effect that the Nigeria Police Force was established for the federal government alone and as such the funding is solely on the shoulder of the federal government.

The judge agreed with the plaintiff that under the relevant laws, such levies are supposed to be paid directly to the federation account and not to any federal government agencies.

“I have carefully perused the issues raised by the plaintiff and I agree that no other person or entity is permitted to benefit from direct fund allocation from the Federation Account.

“Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act 2019 relied upon by the defendant to make direct fund allocation from the Federation Account is untenable as it runs contrary to section 162 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which expressly stated that the federal government, state governments and local governments shall derive direct fund allocation from the Federation Account,” he said.

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Wike Wins FG as Court Stops Illegal Deduction from Federation Account

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday stopped the Federal Government from further making deductions from the Federation Account to fund its own agencies not listed in the 1999 Constitution for direct allocation.

The court declared as illegal, unlawful, and unconstitutional the direct allocations made so far by the government from the Federation Account to fund the Nigeria Police Trust Fund.

Delivering Judgment in a suit instituted by the Rivers State Government to challenge the unlawful deductions from the Federation Account, Justice Ahmed Mohammed held that Section 161 and Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution were glaringly breached by the Federal Government in making direct allocation to the Police Trust Fund from the Federation Account.

The judge specifically held that Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution is clear and unambiguous to the effect that only the federal, state and local governments shall be allocated funds directly from the Federation Account.

The court also held that Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act 2019 relied upon by the government to justify the unlawful deductions from the Federation Account is inconsistent with Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution which recognizes only the federal, states, and LGs.

Justice Mohammed while upholding that the suit of Rivers State against the unjust deduction had succeeded, ordered that the fund belonging to Rivers but used to fund Nigeria Police Trust Fund by the Federal Government be refunded to the state.

The judge, however, declined to extend a similar order of refund to the 35 remaining states on the grounds that they were not parties in the suit and that Rivers State as the plaintiff in the matter did not file it on behalf of others.

The court upheld all arguments of a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu (SAN), who stood in for Rivers State that where the provisions of the 1999 constitution are clear and unambiguous, they must be given their ordinary meanings

Justice Mohammed also agreed with Daudu that the Federal Government was completely wrong in the interpretation given to Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act to the effect that the Nigeria Police was established for the Federal Government alone and as such the funding was solely on the shoulders of the Federal Government.

The Rivers State Government had in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/511/2020 and instituted on its behalf by Daudu challenged the decision of the Federal Government allocating funds directly from the Federation Account to fund some of its agencies claiming that the decision violated Section 162 of the 1999 constitution.

The Rivers State Government had also claimed that by the Federal Government’s unlawful action, it had deprived it (Rivers) substantial revenue from the Federation Account and therefore prayed the court to nullify unlawful fund allocations from the Federation Account.

The plaintiff also claimed that the levies imposed on companies operating in Nigeria by the Federal Government to be paid directly to the Nigeria Police Force Trust Fund instead of the Federation Account were also illegal, unlawful, and unconstitutional because it had also deprived it of substantial revenue accruable to the state as taxes.

The judge agreed with the plaintiff that under the relevant laws, such levies are supposed to be paid directly to the Federation Account and not to any Federal Government agencies.

Justice Mohammed said, “I have carefully perused the issues raised by the plaintiff and I agree that no other person or entity is permitted to benefit direct fund allocation from the Federation Account.

“Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act 2019 relied upon by the defendant to make direct fund allocation from the Federation Account is untenable as it runs contrary to Section 162 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which expressly states that the Federal Government, state governments and LGs shall derive direct fund allocation from the Federation Account”.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Accountant-General of the Federation, Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, and Minister of Finance had been listed as defendants in the suit.

However, only the Attorney General of the Federation filed processes to defend the Federal Government’s action.

The AGF had in his preliminary objection asked the Federal High Court to decline jurisdiction in the matter on the grounds that such a suit ought to be filed directly at the Supreme Court.

However, the preliminary objection was dismissed by Justice Mohammed on the grounds that it was misplaced, absurd and lacking merit.

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