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Federal drug case dropped: voluminous evidence too costly to maintain

In a typical case, people facing drug charges might be hoping the charges against them will be dropped for lack of evidence. In an interesting twist, a judge recently dropped federal drug trafficking charges alleged against a man because there was actually too much evidence compiled against him. At first glance this may seem counter-intuitive, and is certainly not the norm when it comes to federal drug crimes. So why is this case different?

This story began in 2003 when federal investigators uncovered a drug trafficking ring involving Internet pharmacies which were responsible for the illegal sale of 30 million prescription pills to customers. Many of those accused of being involved with the illegal sales of drugs were convicted of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances and money laundering.

However, one of the individuals suspected of being involved in the drug sales was a now 59-year-old doctor. The allegations against him are that customers were able to receive the controlled substances without an examination or any communication with him. His medical license was also suspended during the same time for possible Medicaid fraud involving excessive and unnecessary prescriptions for pills. At the same time, and when he came under suspicion, he decided to return to his home in Panama.

Prosecutors have since given up pursuit of him, and Panamanian authorities have refused to extradite him to the U.S. In the meantime, however, the investigation into the drug trafficking ring has been ongoing for nine years. Investigators have accumulated more than 400,000 documents and two terabytes of electronic data that they could use in a federal criminal trial against this doctor.

The judge recently dismissed the charges involving the distribution of controlled substances in an effort to clean house, and move on from the expensive and impractical task of continuing to maintain the collected body of evidence.

Source: Associated Press, "Drug charges dropped because of too much evidence," Ryan J. Foley,

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