Prescription pills

Deane Crow, the physician and former director of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital's emergency department whose son was at the center of an infamous 2010 murder case, was arrested Wednesday, Nov. 13, on a federal indictment alleging he ran a pill mill.

Crow allegedly wrote prescriptions for hundreds of thousands of pills that were then sold everywhere from out of a Salinas real estate office to various cities around the country. His wife, Diane Lynn Crow, was also arrested, along with  Erik Gonzales, Brittney Cardona and Joe Bernal, for their respective alleged roles in a conspiracy to acquire and distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone.

The investigation into the prescription drug ring Crow allegedly ran was led by investigators from the state Department of Health Care Services Medi-Cal Fraud Investigations Branch, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Monterey County District Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigation. 

Crow gave up his federal prescription license earlier this year, when search warrants were served at several locations.

Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Steve Somers says state investigators from the Department of Health Care Services noticed "an unusual number of prescriptions for opioids" coming out of Monterey County. At the same time, federal investigators from the DEA and FBI received leads on the same subject, and the investigation was consolidated.

"We all agreed to work together," Somers says, "and search warrants were served cooperatively."

Warrants were served on Aug. 14 to the Crow's Prunedale house on Langley Canyon Road, a home in Greenfield and the offices of Genesis Real Estate on Capitol Street in Salinas. Somers says the investigation shows approximately 450,000 pills or more flooded the streets as a result of the scheme. 

A voicemail at Genesis Real Estate did not accept messages late Wednesday. 

According to the indictments, Crow allegedly provided blank prescriptions to Gonzales and Bernal, sometimes in exchange for money, and the two recruited others to visit pharmacies and fill prescriptions. Gonzales allegedly filled in the type of drugs to be obtained, and provided other necessary information including dates of birth to the person bearing the prescription, dosage instructions, dates issued and diagnosis codes regarding purported medical conditions. 

Crow allegedly falsely represented to pharmacy employees that the individuals seeking the prescriptions were his patients for legitimate purposes. Diane Lynn Crow allegedly helped facilitate communications between her husband, Bernal and pharmacy employees.

Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and one count of conspiracy to acquire and obtain a controlled substance by means of misrepresentation or fraud. If convicted, each faces 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Crow had left SVMH and was affiliated with a Stockton medical cannabis dispensary when, in 2010, his son, Jesse Crow, was accused of murdering his 23-year-old wife, Ryann Bunnel Crow. According to the DA's office, Ryann Crow had confronted her husband about his infidelity, and threatened to report his extensive cannabis growing operation to police unless he broke off ties with his girlfriend.

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Authorities believe Ryann Crow disappeared on Jan. 30, 2010. According to a witness, she had demanded to confront her husband's lover; he told her to get into his truck and they drove off. 

He drove her to a remote area off of Highway 1 and just north of Marina, strangled her, shot her in the head and bludgeoned her with a hammer. Two friends helped him move her body; he then dismembered her, placed the remains in a trash can he then filled with cement and then dropped it off the San Mateo Bridge, accompanied by his lover, a Pacific Grove woman named Summer Donovan.

The witness who saw Crow and his wife drive off together later contacted the police.

Ryann Crow's remains were found in marshlands between the San Mateo and Dumbarton bridges in May 2010. Jesse Crow, who had been arrested that February and faced the death penalty in his wife's killing, hanged himself at the Monterey County Jail on Aug. 7, 2010, while awaiting trial.

According to witnesses, Jesse Crow had been considered a "master grower" whose  extensive cannabis growing operation brought in about $150,000 a month. The witness who saw Jesse Crow drive away with his wife also told authorities that Deane Crow and his wife were involved in their son's operation, allowing Jesse to grow cannabis at their Prunedale estate and helping harvest plants.  

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(1) comment

Fred Dodsworth

Wow! What a horrific tale!

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