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June 5, 2010

Dozens arrested in Floyd County round-up

Ice cream truck driver among those allegedly dealing

FLOYD COUNTY — Nearly four dozen people were arrested Friday morning as police agencies in Floyd County rounded up suspected drug dealers and users, including one allegedly dealing pills out of an ice cream truck in front of New Albany High School.

About 55 local law enforcement officers were sent out at about 5 a.m. to serve 54 drug-related warrants that have been issued in recent days. Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson said it was the culmination of three months of investigation that focused primarily on New Albany public housing areas.

Police arrested 43 of the 54 as well as four others not being targeted in the drug round-up. The investigation began because of numerous complaints about drug activity in public housing communities.

“The problem with drugs isn’t unique just to this community,” Henderson said. “However, we have in the public housing section seen the bulk of the problem.”

Indiana State Police, New Albany Police Department and the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department combined resources in the investigation. Henderson said he wished all the cases were related because then they could track the drugs to one source, but most of those arrested seem to be working individually.

“Today’s arrests should send a message to the drug dealers in the community that if you’re dealing drugs and you’re caught and you’re convicted, you’re going to go to prison,” Henderson said. “We’ll continue to take this battle to the streets.”

Henderson said some of the charges are for heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, but the majority relate to the illegal sale and possession of prescription drugs.

“Within the last 10 to 12 months, the issue of prescription abuse has risen above the other drugs in this community,” Henderson said.

Those drugs include hydrocodone, OxyContin and Xanax. OxyContin can sell for $40 or $80 a pill, police said.

“The street value of these pills is tremendous,” he said.

Henderson said one suspect had a prescription filled Thursday for 120 hydrocodone pills. When officers arrived on Friday, all of the pills were gone.

“Clearly, those pills have found their way into the streets,” Henderson said.

Henderson is now calling on the medical community to work with law enforcement in combating the growing problem of prescription drug abuse. He said the problem has grown so rapidly in the last year that it has been difficult for the medical community to respond, but he said it is their responsibility to do more.

“We know these prescriptions are finding their way into schools, finding their way to young people,” Henderson said.

For about four years, Indiana has had a database available for medical professionals to check a patient’s prescription history, but Henderson said “informally, we know it’s not being used very much.”

Urgent care centers are an easy target because doctors do not have a close relationship with the patient. Henderson said they know of drug dealers who have been to 30 different doctors in a 12-month period.

The continuing investigation may focus on doctors who have a reputation for writing prescriptions too freely. Generally, Henderson believes more education with medical professionals will resolve some of the problems.

The most notable arrest was Phillip R. Hochadel Jr., 36, of New Albany. Hochadel has been charged with dealing pills out of a Yellow Cab taxi, and Henderson said Hochadel has also been caught by police dealing pills out of an ice cream truck parked across from New Albany High School.

Charges have not yet been filed in the ice cream truck case, so police are not releasing many details.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Hochadel was observed in his taxi cab selling 18 hydrocodone pills at Fourth Street and Culbertson Avenue. Police also received information that “Taxi Phil” was also known in the Broadmeade housing complex.

Many of the arrests were the result of controlled drug buys with informants and undercover police officers. Frederick “Ricky” Lee, 47, was charged with selling cocaine to a source in New Albany’s Community Park in late April.

Wheelchair-bound Carl R. Ollis Jr., 51, of Riverview Towers in New Albany, has been charged with selling some of the 180 hydrocodone pills he is prescribed each month. He allegedly sells the pills to a neighbor who then deals them to others.

With the popularity of pills, it seems the number of women involved in illegal drug activity continues to grow. Henderson said he has never seen so many women arrested as part of a drug bust in the area. More than 20 of those arrested were women.

Henderson is realistic about the size of the drug problem but hopes such a large raid will deter other drug dealers.

“We know the problem’s much bigger, but we know this does make inroads, makes a dent if you will,” Henderson said.

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