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Coraopolis woman gets 25 months in prison for role in prescription opioid drug ring

Natasha Lindstrom
| Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 5:51 p.m.
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A Coraopolis woman has been sentenced to 25 months in prison for her role in a far-reaching prescription opioid drug ring, U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said Tuesday.

Chani Watkins, 26, was convicted of conspiring to acquire and sell opioid painkillers, including oxycodone and oxymorphone — highly addictive medications contributing to the nation's opioid overdose epidemic.

According to prosecutors, Watkins had been part of a criminal network of drug dealers that obtained opioid painkillers and illegally distributed them to people in the Pittsburgh region.

In December 2016, the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration charged Watkins and 17 others in connection with the health care fraud and prescription pill distribution scheme.

The indictments alleged that all 18 suspects had obtained prescription painkillers paid for by government-funded health care programs and then sold the pills for cash. The buyers then redistributed the pills to opioid addicts, officials said.

Seventeen of the 18 suspects hailed from places in Western Pennsylvania, including Gibsonia, North Versailles, Wilkinsburg, Ford City (Armstrong County) and Pittsburgh's East Liberty, Terrace Village, Marshall-Shadeland, Bedford Dwellings and Manchester neighborhoods.

Officials said that in exchange for cash, Watkins distributed opioid pills to one of the ring's primary dealers, Kavon Dawkins. The Clinton, Mich. man, who also was charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone, is awaiting his sentencing, prosecutors said.

U.S. Judge Mark R. Hornak imposed the sentence on Watkins of 25 months in prison, and three years of supervision once she's released.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan T. Conway prosecuted the case with help from the DEA, the FBI's Federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the state Attorney General.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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