A Michigan doctor and two of his patients, suspected of operating a pill distribution ring to Eastern Kentucky, were arrested by federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials earlier this week, according to Operation UNITE.
Dr. Anthony Choe, 45, of Chelsea, Michigan, was arrested at his office Wednesday, September 5, on a federal indictment warrant charging him with conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone, according to Operation UNITE.
Two of Choe’s patients – 47-year-old Clarence D. Bentley and his wife, 46-year-old Kelly Bentley, both from Albion, Michigan – were each arrested at their home Thursday, September 6, on the same charge, according to Operation UNITE.
The Bentleys, along with approximately four other individuals who have not been identified by authorities, are believed to have delivered thousands of Oxycodone pills to dealers in Pike County, Kentucky, over the past two years, according to Dan Smoot, vice president/director of law enforcement for Operation UNITE.
Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) has worked with the DEA throughout the investigation.
"Dr. Choe was the primary point of distribution for these pills," Smoot noted. "He would write prescriptions for large quantities of Oxycodone. After being filled, the pills were brought to Pike County where they ultimately made their way to the users."
Several of the Kentucky dealers have been arrested over the course of the investigation, which began as street-level cases by Operation UNITE.
A single 30mg Oxycodone pill has a street value of approximately $50, according to Smoot.
Both Chelsea and Albion are located west of Detroit along I-94.
Sealed indictments for the three individuals were issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on August 23.
Kentucky DEA officials from the London Field Office, along with officers from Operation UNITE, the Albion Department of Public Safety, Michigan DEA and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations Division participated in the arrests.
Law enforcement officials also executed federal search warrants at Choe’s family practice in Chelsea and at his home on Wednesday. Federal authorities confirmed that "records and drug evidence" were seized as part of their on-going investigation.
Choe has made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, and the Bentleys have made their initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids.
All three are currently free on bond and will be required to make further court appearances at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Pikeville.
The Laurel County Sheriff’s Office also participated in the investigation.