The suspects, 29 of them in all, range in age from as young as 16 to 34. Most of them are facing felony charges of illegally selling and distributing prescription drugs.
District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said many are local students with no arrest records. At least one undercover purchase occurred on the grounds of a grade school.
Undercover officers, setting up buys, bought the drugs in parking lots, spending six-thousand dollars in 65 buys.
Zugibe said text messaging was the primary contact between sellers and buyers.
"The informant would simply leave a text message. And they would meet up at a location," said Capt. Joseph Tripodo.
The drugs were commonly prescribed and readily available in any medicine cabinet. Officials said some of them were oxycontin, adderall, valium, vicodin and xanax.
The sweeping probe was sparked late in 2008 by confidential informants who contacted police departments in Clarkstown, Orangetown, Ramapo and Suffern. During the next several months, undercover detectives from the Rockland County Narcotics Task Force developed information and made more than 65 buys at various locations throughout Rockland County, including neighborhood strip malls, town parks and on the grounds of Congers Elementary School.
"Young people who peddle drugs in our community are nothing more than merchants of addiction, despair and sometimes, death," Zugibe said. "Teenagers must learn there's no future in narcotics trafficking, only a criminal record."
Drug dependency experts here believe it is a growing problem among teenagers.
"The prescription drug trade is more informal than most cocaine or heroin operations, which are largely distributed by organized gangs," Zugibe said. "A teenager might grab a few pills from mom's nightstand or sell a bottle of leftover Morphine that was prescribed by a dentist."
Parents are strongly urged to keep a close inventory of prescription medications and destroy outdated pills. Some of the suspects, investigators revealed, raided their parents' medicine cabinets and would also obtain the pills through forged prescriptions and through the internet.