In a bizarre turn of events for a case against a fugitive doctor, federal prosecutors have dropped drug charges against an alleged renegade physician because the vast trove of evidence related to the case is too expensive to maintain.
The doctor, Armando Angulo, was indicted in 2007 for allegedly leading a lucrative scheme that involved the sale of prescription drugs over the Internet to patients who were never seen by a physician, according to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The case, however, centers on a massive prosecution of Internet pharmacies, and the case involves more than 400,000 documents and two entire terabytes of electronic information.
And according to federal prosecutors, this vast amount of data is too expensive to maintain. As a result, a federal judge in Iowa dismissed the criminal charges against Angulo this week so prosecutors can clear some storage space for other cases.
The dismissal of the case, however, was not just related to the excessive amount of evidence prosecutors were forced to keep in their files.
Sources say that, before the charges were leveled against him, Angulo fled to Panama, his native country, which does not extradite its own citizens.
Due to his escape, federal officials realized it was highly unlikely that they would ever capture Angulo, and felt it was impractical to continue maintaining such a large database of evidence.
According to Stephanie Rose, the U.S. attorney for northern Iowa, continued storage of the documents would be “difficult and expensive” and also posed an “economic and practical hardship” for the Drug Enforcement Administration because it took up 5 percent of the agency’s worldwide storage space.
Sources say that two terabytes of data is enough space to hold the text of two million novels, or more colorfully, more than 625,000 copies of Tolstoy’s door-stopper, “War and Peace.”
Of course, the dismissal of the case for technical reasons is quite a coup for Angulo, a 59-year-old doctor who was accused of illegally authorizing prescriptions for thousands of patients. The drugs included diet medication, pain pills, and other commonly abused narcotics.
At the time, Angulo worked for Pharmacom International Corp., an Internet company based in Florida that was only in business from 2003 to 2004.
Prosecutors allege that the company directed its doctors to criminally fill prescription orders without examining patients, or even speaking with them, sources say.
Today, three Pharmacon officials and one person who was tasked with recruiting doctors are in prison. In addition, eight doctors associated with the company have pleaded guilty to the illegal distribution of controlled substances. Angulo, however, remains at large.