Newly Formed Drug Tactical Diversion Squad Arrests Ring For Illegally Obtaining, Selling, and Trading Prescription Drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad along with the Louisiana State Police Narcotics Division, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, the Baton Rouge Police Department, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s office, the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office and the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office conducted an investigation into the illegal diversion of prescription drugs in the Baton Rouge, Iberville and Ascension areas. Following months of investigation detectives made multiple arrests for the illegal activity spanning from 2008 to 2013. The investigation is ongoing. Other arrests, search warrants and seizures are possible.

Arrested were:

Christopher Armstrong, 39, of 37112 Cobblestone, Geismer, La. for Manufacture, Distribution of Sch. II Oxycodone and Lortab LRS 40: 967(A) and Racketeering LRS 15:1353. (Booked into Ascension Parish Prison)

Benjamin Landry, 40, of 58475 Island Drive, Plaquemine, La. for Manufacture, Distribution of Sch. II Oxycodone and Lortab LRS: 40:967(A) and Racketeering LRS 15: 1353.

David Hagstad, 43, of 37092 Sue Street, Geismar, La. for 21 Counts of Obtaining CDS by Fraud LRS 40:971(B)(1)(b). (Booked into Ascension Parish Prison)

Angelica Hagstad, 43, of 37092 Sue Street, Geismar, La. for 15 Counts of Obtaining CDS by Fraud LRS 40: 971(B). (Booked into Ascension Parish Prison)

Gretchen Armstrong, 40, of 37112 Cobblestone, Geismer, La. for 101 Counts of
Obtaining CDS by Fraud LRS 40:971(B)(1) (b). (Booked into Ascension Parish Prison)

Search Warrants were issued and executed at the following addresses:

IceHouse Bar, 14111 Airline Hwy. #127, Baton Rouge, La.

37112 Coblestone, Geismer, La. Residence of Christopher and Gretchen Armstrong.

58475 Island Drive, Plaquemine, La. Residence of Benjamin Landry.

“This collaborative effort between DEA Baton Rouge, our East Baton Rouge Prosecutors and other state and local agencies sends a clear and undeniable message to the criminals of the Greater Barton Rouge area that polluting our streets with illegallyobtained prescription drugs is a crime and you will go to jail,” Keith R. Brown, Special Agent in Charge, DEA-New Orleans Field Division said. “This type of activity will not be tolerated. Whether you are conducting your criminal activities from home, the internet, a medical facility or the confines of a public establishment, we can find you. The search warrants and arrests that were served are examples of that. This is just the beginning of our collaborative efforts.”

“Illegal prescription drugs on our streets and in the hands of our children are an ongoing and growing problem,” Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said. “It is imperative that we combine our resources to crack down on this sort of drug trafficking. We have teamed up, and this is just the beginning.”

In December 2013, the newly formed Tactical Diversion Squad (TDS) for the Baton Rouge office of the DEA uncovered a large scale and sophisticated prescription fraud operation based inside of a local medical clinic. The suspect conducted this fraudulent operation without the knowledge of the clinic or any of its doctors. The clinic learned of a fraudulent prescription and immediately reported it to authorities and cooperated fully with this investigation. The investigation revealed that from 2008 until 2013, several hundred fraudulent prescriptions were written for approximately 100,000 dosage units of
Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, two powerful and highly addictive pain killers. Hundreds of prescriptions were also written for other powerful and potentially dangerous prescription medications, such as Ketamine, Amphetamine and Anabolic Steroids.

“I think this is a prime example of what working together can accomplish to clean up our streets,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said. “We will not tolerate those who illegally obtain prescription drugs that corrupt our streets.”

"Pharmaceutical diversion continues to be an area of concern for law enforcement," Colonel Mike Edmonson, State Police Superintendent said. "Troopers are committed to continuing to work with our partners in keeping these illegally obtained drugs off the streets of our communities."

“This is a direct result of law enforcement agencies working together to accomplish the same goal…getting these drugs off the streets of Baton Rouge. We are all committed to this effort in order to make our community a safer place to live,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said.

Through the efforts of numerous law enforcement agencies, the investigation revealed that Christopher Armstrong, a licensed Physician's Assistant employed at the Louisiana Sports and Spine Clinic located here in Baton Rouge, was using his work laptop computer and the clinic's own software to generate hundreds of fake prescriptions for his family, friends and associates. The pills were eventually sold, distributed or traded for goods and services. Benjamin Landry, Armstrong's friend and business partner in the newly opened IceHouse Restaurant, acted as a go-between to deliver the fake prescriptions and receive money and drugs from their various associates. These individuals included: Gretchen Armstrong, David Hagstad, Angelica Hagstad, and others. This investigation is ongoing and other arrests are pending.

Based on pharmaceutical records, detectives determined that Armstrong and Landry sold, distributed, traded or used the following amount of fraudulently obtained narcotics:
Oxycodone 30mg or 40,470 dosage units X street value of $30 =$1,214,100
Oxycodone 15mg or 480 dosage units X street value of $15.00 =$7,200
Oxycotin 80mg or 120 dosage units X street value of $40.00=$4,800
Hydrocodone 10/50mg or 20,370 dosage units X street value of $5.00=$17,700
Amphetamine Salts 30mg or 3540 dosage units X street value of $5.00=$17,700
39 Testosterone Prescriptions for 2,263mg X street value of $15.00/mg-$33,945
Total Street Value=$1,379,595.00

Detectives suspect that Armstrong and Landry used their restaurant, The IceHouse, as a meeting place to conduct illegal money and drug transactions, and to possibly launder their profits from the illegal drug trade. This is still under investigation.

Friday morning, TDS Agents and local law enforcement officials simultaneously arrested Armstrong, Landry and the above listed associates in Ascension and Iberville parish at their residences. Search warrants were also served at their homes, and at the Icehouse Restaurant. The investigation is ongoing.

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