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A High Desert pharmacist has pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally distributing the opioid oxycodone, admitting that she filled hundreds of counterfeit prescriptions.

Pauline Tilton, 49, of Hesperia, a licensed pharmacist and the owner of Oasis Pharmacy in Victorville, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of distribution of oxycodone and one count of money laundering related to more than a quarter millions dollars of revenue generated by the illegal sales. In conjunction with Tilton’s guilty pleas, Oasis Pharmacy also pleaded guilty Monday to the same two felony offenses.

This case was the first to be charged as the result of an investigation into corrupt pharmacies dubbed “Operation Faux Pharmacy.” As part of that operation, in 2017 the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California filed search warrants with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on several pharmacies that are part of the prescription opioids investigation. Search warrants were issued against United Pharmacy Inc. in Los Angeles, CA; Home Care Pharmacy in Simi Valley, CA; Oasis Pharmacy in Victorville, CA; Blythe Drug in Blythe, CA; Dial Drug Pharmacy in Laguna Hills, CA; Procare Pharmacy in Murrieta, CA; Sunny Hills Pharmacy in Fullerton, CA; and Tower Pharmacy in Mission Viejo, CA.

The DEA identified the fraudulent pharmacies as those with “exceptionally high numbers of oxycodone prescriptions, excessive or frequent opioid purchases, multiple customers with identical addresses, or customers traveling extreme distances to specific pharmacies despite access to more convenient options,” the agency said in a statement.

According to court documents, over the course of just one year that ended in July 2017, Tilton filled at least 345 fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone. The prescriptions were written under the name and DEA registration number of a retired doctor. Tilton admitted knowing the prescriptions were fraudulent, outside the usual scope of professional practice, and without a legitimate medical purpose.

As a result of the 345 prescriptions, Tilton and Oasis Pharmacy illegally diverted approximately 62,100 tablets of oxycodone. Many of the fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions also included prescriptions for alprazolam and promethazine with codeine. Those three drugs – oxycodone, alprazolam, and promethazine with codeine – comprise the “Holy Trinity,” a frequently abused and life-threatening cocktail of controlled substances.

In return for filling the fake prescriptions, Tilton and Oasis Pharmacy received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash payments. Between January 2016 and June 2017, Tilton deposited $268,621 of illicit cash proceeds from her illegal drug distribution into three banks accounts over which Tilton held sole signature authority.

Tilton and Oasis Pharmacy pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who scheduled sentencing hearings on August 12 for both defendants.

When she is sentenced, Tilton will face a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Oasis Pharmacy could be ordered a fine of up to $1.25 million.