Undercover Operation Cracks Drug Theft Ring


Federal prosecutors have charged nearly two dozen men in a string of pharmaceutical thefts in three states. The drugs included anti-depressants and chemotherapy medications. One of the break-ins at a warehouse in Connecticut led to changes in the way companies handle security.

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Yesterday, federals officials announced the arrest of nearly two dozen men for the theft of tens of millions of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals in three states.

From member station WSHU in Connecticut, Craig LeMoult reports one of those burglaries was so huge it changed the way companies handle security.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Two brothers were arrested and charged, Thursday, with cutting a hole in the roof of an Eli Lilly warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut in March of 2010. They allegedly made off with between $70 and $80 million worth of pharmaceuticals, including anti-depressant and chemotherapy medications.

Here's U.S. Attorney David Fein.

DAVID FEIN: As far as we know this brazen crime was the biggest theft in Connecticut history and in the history of the pharmaceutical industry countrywide.

LEMOULT: Stolen drugs like these are sold overseas and can also be illegally sold to American distributors. These drugs were recovered by authorities. The break in was noticed by the industry.

Dan Burges collects data on cargo thefts for FreightWatch International, a security firm that helps companies avoid this kind of thing. He says since the Eli Lilly incident, the number of pharmaceutical thefts has gone down.

DAN BURGES: Such a huge loss that was, you know, very, very public and very, very well-known I think really generated some motivation in a lot of companies to kind of close the door, you know, before the horses got out, so to speak.

LEMOULT: Eli Lilly confirms they've taken additional steps since then to secure their cargo. Burges says while the number of pharmaceutical cargo thefts was down last year, the overall the number of cargo thefts was up eight percent.

For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult, in Connecticut.

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