Chicago-area trio arraigned on drug charges in Kent Co.

Lavell Butler, Roberto House, Jermaine Traylor
Left to right: Lavelle Butler, Roberto House and Jermaine Traylor's mug shots from the Kent County Correctional Facility Feb. 13, 2017.

SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — Three men with ties to the Chicago area face up to four years in a Michigan prison for trying to fraudulently obtain prescription drugs from a Sparta pharmacy.

Police say Lavelle Butler, Roberto House and Jermaine Traylor — all of whom have previous felony drug and other convictions — had been up and down the west coast of Michigan as far north as Pentwater trying out their scheme. It’s not clear if they were successful at anything more than not getting caught.

Investigators don’t know why the trio targeted the Sparta Family Fare Pharmacy.

Sparta, pharmacy
The pharmacy in Sparta where three suspects allegedly tried to get prescription drugs using a fake prescription. (Feb. 13, 2017)

“We are not aware of any connections between that group of people and this town,” Sparta Police Department Officer David Price said.

Price says the case began with an out-of-state phone call.

“They called in claiming to be a doctor from Arkansas, requesting  controlled substances,” Price explained. “The call had a distance-sounding voice, a digital-sounding voice, which is not uncommon for fake phone call apps where you can disguise you phone number.”

The pharmacist knew something wasn’t right. On top of the odd-sounding call was the obvious question: Why would a doctor in Arkansas call a pharmacy in Sparta to fill a prescription for a patient from Illinois? So the pharmacist called police for advice.

“We told them to say the prescription was ready, and we would be waiting for them,” Price said.

Police say one of the suspects went into the Family Fare to pick up the prescription on Friday, but got nervous when he had to wait and left.

He didn’t get very far. He and his companions were stopped by police a short time after leaving the pharmacy.

Officers say they found empty bottles of similar drugs in the suspects’ vehicle. They don’t know if drugs were for personal use or resale.

All three suspects are arraigned Monday on charges of prescription drug fraud, a four-year, $40,000 felony.