Drug Ring Bust In Poconos, N.Y.

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MONROE COUNTY -- An illegal prescription drug trafficking ring, stretching from New York City to the Poconos is busted, according to authorities.

The bust uncovered tens of thousands of narcotic pills and most of the arrests are in Monroe County.

This drug investigation spread from New York to New Jersey, New England and the Poconos.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says it's the largest prescription drug-related takedown in Pennsylvania history.

A total of 43 people were arrested this week, mostly in Monroe County in this prescription drug trafficking scheme. Those arrests include the two alleged drug ring leaders from Monroe County, who, investigators say, not only had dozens  of people working for them, but just as much high-powered weapons to protect them.

The table at the DEA news conference was filled with all sorts of weapons such as rifles, assault-style shotguns, a gold-plated heavy-caliber handgun, a tommy gun, and protective vests. All came from homes in Monroe County, and investigators say all were there to protect a network of drug dealers.

"We found loaded weapons, strategically placed around the residences. They were not hunting rifles, they were loaded and ready to go," said Jonathan Duecker with the state attorney general's office.

At a news conference inside the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters in New York City, federal officials explained an investigation into an illegal prescription drug ring that started in 2011.

At the same time, police in Monroe County were investigating illegal weapon trafficking. Then all agencies started noticing the same suspects were involved and learned more than 75,000 oxycodone pills - which are pain killers - were being illegally trafficked throughout the northeast U.S.

"It's an awareness to people to understand that these prescription drugs are just as dangerous and as deadly as the conventional drugs we seize:    marijuana, cocaine, heroin," said Pocono Mountain Regional Police Chief Harry Lewis.

Investigators say it all came out of the office of Dr. Hector Castro - an internal medicine practitioner in Manhattan.

It was his officer manager- Patricia Valera - who investigators say was selling forged prescription sheets to Bryn Stevenson, 29, of Bartonsville  and John Romagnolo, 44, of Cresco.  Their branch of the drug ring would then allegedly use the prescription sheets to get oxycodone in the Poconos.

"We're lucky, I think, that no one was injured during those two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, when these warrants were served," said Stroud Area Regional Police Chief William Parrish.

Newswatch 16 was there when two suspected drug runners were taken into custody at Stroud Area Regional Police headquarters on Tuesday.

In total, 41 alleged drug runners were arrested in Monroe County.

The suspects, investigators say, would actually buy the pills at pharmacies throughout Monroe County.

Also on Tuesday, Newswatch 16 spotted agents and local police taking boxes of evidence into police headquarters as well.

Investigators say so many prescriptions were being filled in Monroe County that many area pharmacies ran out of oxycodone.  Some refused to fill oxycodone prescriptions because the demand was so great.

Pharmacies also were suspicious of all the prescriptions coming in from Dr. Castro's Manhattan office, so they alerted authorities.