Shawn Davis was sentenced to 15 tears behind bars after authorities concluded a 10-month investigation dubbed “Operation Maple Empire” that found he ran a heroin trafficking ring in Trenton.
New Jersey State Police confiscated guns, drugs, and cash from 25 people arrested in the bust of the drug ring they accused Davis of running but the value of everything seized by law enforcement was worth less than a day’s pay for Richard Sackler, the billionaire businessman who controlled Purdue Pharma, the company that made OxyContin and largely contributed to the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Purdue Pharma executives and Sackler family members misled doctors and patients about the risks of its opioid-based pain medications in order to boost sales and to keep patients away from safer alternatives, and these crimes netted them about $10 billion.
Richard Sackler wrote, “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are the reckless criminals,” in an email regarding the Massachusetts court filing.
Sackler told company officials in 2008 to “measure our performance by Rx’s by strength, giving higher measures to higher strengths.”
This was verified with legally obtained documents tied to a lawsuit filed in June by then-Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who claimed that Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family knew that putting patients on high dosages of OxyContin for long periods increased the risks of serious side effects, including addiction.
Nonetheless, they promoted higher dosages because stronger pain pills brought the company and the Sacklers the most profit, the lawsuit has charged.
Additional documents released by Healey show the Sacklers were directing doctors to over-prescribe their drug.
Those documents even listed doctors who prescribed inordinately large amounts of Oxycontin for no true medical reason, but rather to profit of the Sackler family.
Once a week, Davis made trips to Newark, where he would buy heroin and cocaine and drove it back to Trenton. He then distributed to dealers in an organization he ran, who sold the drugs on the street and kicked back some of the profits to Davis.
“We allege that Davis was a major heroin supplier, as revealed by the 358 bricks of heroin – or nearly 18,000 doses – seized from his car as he returned from a weekly drug run to Newark,” said then-Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino, in what appears to be a massive understatement in comparison to the Sackler family.
As of December 2020, Forbes estimated that the Sackler family’s wealth has dropped to about $11 billion.
Purdue Pharma reached a legal settlement in 2007 after three current and former executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The parent company of Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $600 million in fines based on charges that the company misled doctors, patients, and regulators about the addictive risks of Oxycontin.
Three individuals also pleaded guilty to misbranding the drug and were fined $34.5 million. Oxycontin is a powerful pain narcotic that the company originally claimed was less likely to cause addiction or abusive behavior than similar medications.
In 2020, the company pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to marketing Oxycontin. The settlement charged Purdue Pharma $8.3 billion in penalties as well as $225 million in civil penalty fines to the Sackler family.
“Davis and the members of this alleged ring profited from the illicit drug trade that has infected our communities and torn families apart,” said State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes, at the time of the Trenton arrests. “The indictments of these violent gang members represent another step towards preventing these highly addictive and potentially deadly opioids from reaching our neighborhoods.”
None of the 40 members of the Sackler family faced any criminal liability and there is a good chance they will keep most of their drug related fortune free of accountability despite the nearly half-million deaths they caused in pursuit of profit.
Purdue Pharma is proposing a $10 billion bankruptcy exit plan, which includes $500 million in cash that would settle hundreds of thousands of lawsuits against the company. It also provides $4.2 billion in payouts from Sackler family members over the next decade, although the schedule of payouts wasn’t specified.
While the Sacklers will give up ownership of Purdue’s domestic operations they would retain ownership of overseas subsidiaries for seven years or more. The Sacklers would admit no wrongdoing.
Nearly half of all the states’ attorneys general initially denounced the proposal, arguing that the Sackler family must be held responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic, which killed nearly 450,000 Americans between 1999 and 2018.
“The Sacklers is offering is convenient way for them to make less than $750 million in structured payments that will provide victims and their families only an average of $5,600 per claim,” said Lisa McCormick. “This is a quick infusion of blood money that fundamentally lets the worlds worst drug dealers get away with murder and keep most of their wealth, instead of a punishment worthy of the crimes such as being ripped apart limb from limb or rotting in prison for the rest of their lives.”
“They killed nearly half-a-million Americans but they won’t spend a night in jail or give up much of their fortune, and the political establishment is okay with that,” said McCormick.