Narcotics may have claimed two more lives in Arlington over the weekend.
Police removed two bodies from an apartment along N. George Mason Drive in the Buckingham neighborhood Sunday night, a local resident told ARLnow. A police spokeswoman tells us that the preliminary death investigation pointed to drugs as a likely cause.
“At approximately 6:52 p.m. on August 2, police were dispatched to the 300 block of N. George Mason Drive for the report of a possible death,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
“Upon arrival, an adult male and female were located deceased inside a residence,” Savage continued. “Based on the preliminary investigation, the deaths are being investigated as possible overdoses. Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”
Arlington has seen a resurgence in opioid overdoses and deaths this year, as the pandemic leaves people jobless and at home, exacerbating substance abuse issues. The surge threatens to reverse progress since the opioid crisis in Arlington peaked in 2017.
Two weeks ago, ACPD revealed that its officers had used life-saving Naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses nine times so far this year. Prior to the weekend’s deaths, the county had recorded 38 opioid overdoses and 10 deaths so far this year, compared to 42 overdoses and 6 deaths for all of 2019.
More from a police press release:
Since the start of the year, nine individuals have recovered from opioid overdoses following the deployment of Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) by responding officers. This comes as the number of police investigated incidents involving opioids begins to rise, with fatal incidents now surpassing those reported in 2019. The opioid crisis remains a significant issue facing our community. The Arlington County Police Department is sharing information and resources to promote awareness, prevention and action to ultimately save lives.
Addressing the Opioid Crisis in Arlington
Starting in 2016, the Arlington community began seeing a significant increase in the number of opioid overdoses and deaths reported in the County. To help individuals, families, parents and friends understand the risks associated with opioids and resources available to help with this growing crisis, Arlington developed the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI). AARI is a collaborative program comprised of stakeholders from across the county including treatment providers, first responders, the justice system, schools, the hospital, and non-profit organizations. The initiative takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing the opioid epidemic by focusing on prevention and education, addiction treatment, response and recovery and criminal investigation and enforcement. […]
Investigating Opioid-Related Incidents
Detectives from the police department’s Organized Crime Section assist with every opioid-related overdose and collaborate with detectives from the Homicide/Robbery Unit on fatal incidents to ensure a complete and thorough investigation. Prioritization has been placed on investigating cases involving heroin and opioids and identifying those that distribute dangerous controlled substances within our community. Whenever possible, overdose victims are referred to the DHS’ overdose outreach program for follow-up after an incident involving opioids. This referral system has led to an increase in the number of individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorders through County programs.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are numerous treatment resources available in Arlington and through the Department of Human Services. Assistance is also available through Operation Safe Station, a designated safe environment where individuals wishing to seek help with their drug use can self-report and receive services, without fear of prosecution and incarceration. Community members are also encouraged to prevent medication misuse or overdose by safely disposing of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medication in one of Arlington’s four permanent drug take-back boxes or by requesting a free deactivation bag.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
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Opioid Overdoses Rise in Arlington — “Since the start of the year, nine individuals have recovered from opioid overdoses following the deployment of Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan) by responding officers. This comes as the number of police investigated incidents involving opioids begins to rise, with fatal incidents now surpassing those reported in 2019.” [Arlington County]
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Flickr pool photo by Cyrus W.
A pharmacy owner with stores in Arlington and Alexandria has been sentenced to four years behind bars for falsifying insurance claims and illegally dispensing opioids.
Latif Mohamed Chowdhury, 29, was sentenced to prison on Friday after law enforcement accused him of running a get rich quick scheme by billing insurance companies for prescriptions he never filled, and in some cases, were never prescribed by a doctor to the patient. Officials say Chowdhury, who did not have a pharmacy license, dispensed medications and billed insurance companies at his two pharmacies between August 2015 and February 2016 using identities he had stolen from licensed pharmacists.
“Chowdhury blithely violated his position of trust,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a statement last week.
Federal prosecutors said Chowdhury pocketed $500,000 from his fraudulent billing and illegally dispensed “a significant number” of opioid and other medications.
Officials also said in the course of their investigation they found Chowdhury had given opioids to seven-year-old children “outside the usual course of professional practice.”
While searching one of the pharmacies, officials said they found Chowdhury had left a loaded Colt .38 revolver on one of the store’s shelves.
The Arlington pharmacy (called ACP-2) was located at 611 S. Carlin Springs Road, at the Virginia Hospital Center campus that is being acquired by Arlington County in a land swap. The Alexandria pharmacy (ACP-1) was located at 8330 Richmond Highway.
“Although one of Chowdhury’s family members owned ACP-2, Chowdhury in fact operated, managed, directed, and controlled ACP-2 from in or around January 2015 through in or around February 2016. ACP-2 was shut down for business in March 2016,” Matthew Nestopoulos, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told ARLnow.
On his LinkedIn, Chowdhury listed experience working in information technology — including eight months at the Pentagon — before leaving the field and opening the two pharmacists.
“In 2013 I began to venture towards opening a business and work alongside my career to grow Alexandria Care Pharmacy which has now been successfully operating for two years,” he wrote.
His most recent post included a call to hire “full-time background investigators” for a new business venture.
“We are committed to protecting the public and the people of Virginia,” said Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division. “We will continue to track down and bring to justice criminals who are fueling the opiate crisis at every level including pill writers, pill fillers, and drug dealers in the area.”
Friday’s sentencing came after Chowdhury pled guilty in July.
Flickr photo by Joe Gratz
Arlington law enforcement officials are launching a program to help people with addictions get help without jail time.
“Operation Safe Station” allows the Office of the Magistrate to waive charges on people with an addiction who turn themselves and their drugs in, and ask for help.
“Forgoing a prosecution and connecting individuals to treatment professionals is a first step in fighting this pernicious epidemic,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in a statement Tuesday.
The program is the latest effort combatting the opioid crisis after the county saw a 245 percent increase in patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction between 2015 and 2017.
Operation Safe Station will refer participating people to “support groups, outpatient office based opioid treatment programs, Methadone programs, and when appropriate, residential treatment” per the description on the county’s website.
The program is a joint creation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Arlington County Police, and Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services (DHS).
In a Tuesday press release, Chief of Police Jay Farr, DHS Director Anita Friedman, and Sheriff Beth Arthur praised Operation Safe Station for “removing barriers” preventing people from seeking help with their addictions.
However, the program does not accept people who:
- Have outstanding arrest warrants
- Have been convicted of giving, selling, or distributing drugs, or convicted of doing so with the intent to manufacture
- Are under 18 years old and don’t have a guardian with them
- Are determined to be a threat to program staff by police
Those who do not meet these criteria still face arrest if they turn themselves in with controlled substances at the Magistrate’s Office.
Operation Safe Station participants must also agree to a search and sign an agreement committing themselves to the program.
The program’s announcement comes several months into Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos’ campaign for re-election. Challenger Parisa Tafti has criticized the prosecutor for being slow to implement criminal justice reform measures like eliminating cash bail.
Stamos has defended her record earlier this week by referencing success of her “Second Chance” program she says diverted 500 minors struggling with addict from court since its start in 2011 as well as a Drug Court program.