Now after a month-long investigation and over 1,200 miles of travel, KPLC's Rhonda Kitchens has a shocking first-hand account of just how easy it is to bring large quantities of prescription drugs into Southwest Louisiana.
On a typical street in downtown Houston you'll see pain management clinics, billboards, and even flyers offering bargain prices for pain relief. All the incentives are sending many in Southwest Louisiana across the border. A detective with the Calcasieu Sheriff's Office, Billy Chapman, says he hears about it all the time.
Billy: "I sit in my office every day and I answer calls and I speak to people and I hear how they go over there in van loads and they go and visit four and five doctors, each person, and they'll spend a weekend over there getting all of this prescription medication."
A prescription for death that's making its way to the streets of Calcasieu parish. 7News joined forces with the Calcasieu Sheriff's Office, combined anti-drug task force, and Calcasieu District Attorney, John DeRossier, to head west in search of answers.
We gave an undercover agent $1,000.
A team wires him up then he sets out to do some doctor shopping.
We began in Harris county.
Our first visit didn't take long. Our undercover agent is asked to pay $70 cash up front and within 10 minutes he's back outside.
Agent: "They gave me a picture of a human being and asked me to draw a line to where I hurt."
A quick line to the neck and a prescription for 120 Lorcets, 120 Soma's, and 30 Xanax is faxed across the street to a pharmacy.
It just so happens that's where other members of the team have set up to watch the operation as it unfolds.
Billy: "Three or four white males back in there you see them come out with a prescription bag. At the same time a Ford Explorer from La pulls in with four or five people in there, they get theirs filled and they leave, so this is a hopping little spot here."
The question now, is it legit?
The agent goes inside for a closer look.
Agent: "Its got two windows that are completely blacked out. There's a small slit that you slide your drivers license under and your money and then you go to the other slit and they slide the drugs out."
Again, all cash and all up front, just as detectives had suspected.
But what happened next, took us all by surprise.
We took a look at a typical Houston strip mall.
There we saw the "West Little York Medical Clinic" right next door "The Med Express Pharmacy". But its what's next door that's really shocking. It's a Houston Police Department Substation.
Agent: "I talked to a junkie at the door and I said do you need medical records to come here and he said no not the first time you have to have them by the third time."
The agent goes inside, fills out the paperwork and hands it to the receptionist, who quickly points out he's made a mistake.
Agent: "She looked at me like I was crazy and she said ‘Don't you go back there and tell this doctor you don't take drugs. Tell them what kind of drugs you want.' I told her I wanted Hydrocodones, Somas and Xanax and she whited out everything I put on the form and filled it in with her answers so I could get the drugs."
In just minutes we add another 120 Hydrocodone, 120 Somas, and this time, 60 Xanax to our purchases.
Agent: "I was pretty surprised. You wouldn't think the clerk would be in on it the way a street drug dealer would be....It's wide open you can just buy whatever you want there. All it takes is time and money."
Two doctors and six prescriptions later we've spent just over $300 for pills that could easily net around $3,000 on the street.
Not bad for a few hours of work.
Billy: "Ya'll want to just hurry up, get over there, and try to get another one in real quick./Team: "Yeah"/Billy: "Because they're going to close here in an hour, hour and a half or so."
Clinics began closing their doors at 3:30 in the afternoon. Many have armed guards and elaborate surveillance equipment to monitor their patients every move, but Chapman says doctor shoppers, like the ones encountered on a recent traffic stop, have learned to make the most of each visit.
Billy: "There was a group of people that went over there that was related to this stop. They visited 9 pharmacies, 5 doctors, and 33 different names were on these prescription bottles which resulted in the 8,077 individual dosages. And right now, as crazy as this sounds, it was completely legal for them to do what they did, they had a legitimate prescription. They saw a doctor, they had it filled at a pharmacy and that's the problem. That's what we're trying to change."