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By Christine Emerson
Observer Staff Writer 

Biggest Ever Burglary Investigation Yields Gang Arrests of 12 East Coast Crips and 2 Local Doctors

12 undercover DEA agents or cooperating witnesses were able to obtain prescriptions from Oparah and Ridgill without a physical examination

 

September 3, 2016

Dr. Edward Ridgill, MD. According to the affidavit filed in the cases against the doctors, Oparah issued nearly 13,000 false prescriptions during the one-year period between July 2014 to July 2015. Ridgill topped him with 21,000 such prescriptions in the three years between July 2011 and July 2014.

The result of the longest and most extensive residential burglary and narcotics investigation in Los Angeles has ended in the arrest of 12 suspected burglary suspects, all members of the East Coast Crips, and two doctors.

Dubbed "Operation Money Bags," the investigation involved the Torrance Police Department along with law enforcement agencies in several Southern California counties. Also participating was the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

For three years a group of burglars had invaded up to 37 residences, sometimes when the homeowner was present. They stole jewelry, gold, money, and safes, according to prosecutors. The area involved included LA, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Orange Counties.

The Torrance Police Department's Gang Detail and Special Investigations Division began investigating the crimes in January 2012. The focus of interest became members of the East Coast Crips gang. Detectives eventually discovered that proceeds from the burglaries were being used to obtain prescription narcotics. These drugs were then being resold on the street.

Once detectives learned about the prescriptions, their investigation led to two doctors, Sonny Oparah, 75, of Long Beach and Edward Ridgill, 64, of Ventura. Oparah and Ridgill allegedly prescribed hydrocodone (a painkiller also known as Vicodin or Norco) and codeine (known on the street as purple drank), alprazolam (also known as Xanax), and carisoprodol (a muscle relaxer known as Soma). According to the affidavit filed in the cases against the doctors, Oparah issued nearly 13,000 prescriptions during the one-year period between July 2014 to July 2015. Ridgill topped him with 21,000 such prescriptions in the three years between July 2011 and July 2014.

The DEA instigated an operation of their own in which 12 undercover agents or cooperating witnesses were able to obtain prescriptions from Oparah and Ridgill without a physical examination. Fees were paid in cash.

A medical expert's independent review of the undercover recordings and seized patient files confirmed that there was no legitimate medical basis for the prescriptions. The expert, writing about Oparah, said his "actions are very alarming" and the evidence reflects "extreme departures from the standard of care." Added U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker, "The powerful drugs in this case, which include addictive painkillers, can kill users who abuse them."

The federal investigation seeks to prove these doctors were significant suppliers of drugs to the street gang and enabled their criminal drug dealing.

Also involved in investigating the doctors were the Los Angeles Police Department, the Torrance Police Department, the IRS-Criminal Investigation, the California Medical Board, and the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

On Friday, August 26, the investigation into the burglaries and drug trafficking came to fruition when 400 officers from 18 different agencies in 5 counties worked together to serve warrants at 28 locations all at the same time.

In all, there were:

28 search warrants

147 counts of residential burglary

53 gang members implicated in the burglaries

50 searches of the cells of inmates currently in state prisons

7 firearms seized

Bulk US currency found

Various amounts of narcotics found

13 arrests

The gang members indicted are:

Lamor Arnett aka Nucy Wacc (dob 8/12/82) of Los Angeles.

Tavon Moore aka Young Wacc (dob 1/23/91) of Inglewood

Richard McKay aka Richie Rich (dob 7/20/91) of Gardena

Sonny Oparah, MD. According to the affidavit filed in the cases against the doctors, Oparah issued nearly 13,000 illegal prescriptions during the one-year period between July 2014 to July 2015. Ridgill topped him with 21,000 such prescriptions in the three years between July 2011 and July 2014.

Valerie Acosta (dob 4/24/90) of Compton

Erica Whitson aka V-Baby (dob 10/20/91) of Los Angeles

Mark Hundley aka P.K. (dob 7/10/86) of Carson

Jerome Grigsby (dob 4/1/88) of Inglewood

Rayshaun Marshall aka Baby D. Rocc (dob 7/15/95) of Los Angeles

Carlton Bruton aka Tiny Chill (dob 9/28/92) of Los Angeles

Talford Brown aka TC (dob 5/24/68) of Long Beach

Andrew Lopez aka Migo aka Drew (dob 1/17/90) of Montebello

Ruben Alaniz (dob 6/6/91) of Montebello.

The investigation continues under the command and direction of Captain Martin Vukotic of the Special Operations Bureau. Anyone with additional information related to this case is encouraged to contact the Torrance Police Department at (310) 328-3456

 

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