A jury this morning convicted Shane McKenney of racketeering and drug trafficking charges in connection with allegations that he led a prescription drug mill responsible for getting thousands of Oxycodone pills illegally from local pharmacies.
The jury of five women and one man returned the verdict just after the start of their second day of deliberations in McKenney’s trial, which lasted more than a week.
McKenney, of North Palm Beach, was one of more than a dozen people Palm Beach Gardens Police arrested in connection with the ring in 2008 at the end of a routine investigation that began with the report of a burglary.
Several of the others arrested with McKenney testified against him during the trial, including Michael Zimmerman, who outlined for jurors how McKenney obtained fake prescriptions on the Internet and gave them to other members of the ring to fill at local pharmacies. Members of the alleged ring, including Zimmerman, would receive a cut of the bounty.
McKenney’s attorney, Evelyn Ziegler, argued that in many cases the pharmacies did little or nothing to verify the prescriptions, which were always paid for in cash. McKenney, Ziegler pointed out, was an Oxycodone addict himself that used heavily the drugs he was suspected of trafficking.
In the end, the jury convicted McKenney of dozens of trafficking charges stretching back to 2007. In a handful of cases, however, they found him guilty of lesser trafficking charges based on the weights of the pills in some transactions, and acquitted him of at least one count of the more than 100 trafficking charges.
This morning’s verdict means McKenney faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years in prison when Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal sentences him in the case on Oct. 29.
McKenney’s mother and sister, seated in the courtroom for the verdict, hugged each other and wept quietly as the verdicts were read. His family said because he was an addict that the 25-year minimum mandatory sentence attached to the charges in McKenney’s case are much to harsh, comparing his case to those of Jeff and Chris George of Wellington.
The George brothers, who ran a pill mill operation tied to several deaths, made plea deals with federal prosecutors. Chris George received 17 ½ years in prison, and Jeff George’s sentence will be capped at 20 years in prison — including a murder case in state court for the death of 24-year-old Joey Bartolucci, who overdosed on pills prescribed to him at a George brothers clinic.