ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The feds called it "Operation Paper Trail," a massive investigation into a drug ring responsible for about $1 million in fake prescriptions.
Twenty-one people now face charges, and most were arrested Thursday after an investigation that began almost two years ago. It involved the Drug Enforcement Administration, District Attorney's Office and State Board of Pharmacy.
Seven people face state charges, and another 14 people are facing federal charges including a 50-year-old woman working as a secretary at the New Mexico Human Resources Department and a 32-year-old special education assistant at a middle school in the Albuquerque Public School district.
The ring used fake prescriptions to get lots of legal drugs, in many cases oxycodone, an opiod painkiller.
A DEA spokesman called it a very sophisticated ring involving some relatives and some people who just know each other and shared information.
Counterfeit prescriptions were used at pharmacies throughout Albuquerque, and those pharmacies are the ones that first tipped off authorities.
The DEA spokesman said he wants to dispel the idea that just because prescription drugs can be used legally, they aren't as dangerous as other drugs.
"They are drugs period," Keith Brown of the DEA said. "They're just like heroin, just like cocaine, just as illegal to sell, just as dangerous to take, and they will kill you just as dead."
Investigators believe drugs were sold on the street, but no one is facing charges for that yet.
Some of those arrested Thursday morning have already appeared in court.
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