Pubdate: Tue, 21 Dec 2004
Source: Fauquier Times-Democrat (VA)
Copyright: 2004 Times Community Newspapers
Author: Alexandra Bogdanovic
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


When federal prosecutors wrapped up their case against a McLean-based
pain doctor accused of prescription drug trafficking recently, Det.
Fulton Lucas was on hand for the closing arguments.

"I've been a police officer since 1981," the Fauquier County
investigator said this week. "Very seldom are you able to reach
someone at the top of the chain for distribution of drugs. This was an
important case."

Dr. William E. Hurwitz was arrested and indicted on 49 counts of drug
trafficking in 39 states on Sept. 25, 2003. Thirteen additional counts
were later added to the indictment.

According to federal prosecutors, Hurwitz's trial, which was held at
U.S. District Court in Alexandria, lasted more than 40 days from jury
selection to the closing arguments. In all, 76 witnesses were called.
Of those, 63 testified for the prosecution.

When all was said and done, Hurwitz was acquitted on numerous counts
including a continuing criminal enterprise charge. But the jury found
him guilty on 50 of the counts lodged against him.

Sentencing is scheduled to be held in March.

Sharing credit

"This was a real team effort from the start," said Paul J. McNulty,
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "It was an example
of excellent work by local law enforcement agencies from the beginning."

According to Lucas, who has been with the Sheriff's Office here since
1996, detectives Erich Junger and Mac Halley worked the robbery case
that eventually led to the larger investigation.

"That opened the door for us," said Lucas, who later joined the
investigation as a member of the narcotics task force.

The robbery investigation began when 90 bottles of OxyContin were
stolen from The Plains Pharmacy on Feb. 16, 2001. Several suspects in
the case were eventually caught and convicted -- and that's when
Hurwitz's name began to crop up.

"It was like pulling a thread," Lucas told the Fauquier Times-Democrat
last year. "We just kept unraveling more and more. Everyone was either
related or knew someone who was involved in the ring."

As authorities learned more about Hurwitz's alleged activities, the
number of investigating agencies continued to grow. Eventually,
authorities from Fairfax and Loudoun counties were also involved,
along with their federal counterparts from the FBI, DEA and Department
of Health and Human Services.

"We actually had truckloads of (evidence)," Lucas recalled last week.
"It took us months to go through everything and figure out what could
be used."

The aftermath

Today, OxyContin isn't as readily available in Fauquier County as it
once was, Lucas said. But more limited access to the powerful
painkiller has resulted in a different problem, he opined.

"We are seeing an increase in heroin (use)."
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