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Sacramento-area couple indicted for running illegal prescription drug distribution ring

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A Sacramento-area couple were indicted Thursday for their role in a scheme to illegally distribute large quantities of prescription medications, including Adderall, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Ritalin, Ambien and Xanax.

Farah Sarwar, 24, and Hussain Shahzad, 28, both of Elk Grove, are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and 16 counts of possession with intent to distribute a variety of Schedule II, III and IV controlled substances. The case is being prosecuted by Christiaan Highsmith with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

According to court documents, on Aug. 21, investigators searched Sarwar and Shahzad’s home and storage unit and found nearly 90,000 prescription pills. The case is the product of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"The abuse of prescription drugs has led to a significant increase in deaths and hospitalizations in recent years, particularly among young people," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. "Combatting the illicit sale of prescription drugs is a high priority in the United States Attorney’s Office."

"The prescription medications these defendants allegedly sold are controlled for a reason – because if used improperly or abused, they can pose serious health risks," said Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge for HSI Sacramento. "What’s more, the pharmaceutical products distributed by criminal organizations are often illegally imported counterfeit versions that contain unknown components or unsafe levels of active ingredients."

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Any actual sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.