2 plead guilty in Sparta pharmacy drug fraud scheme

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.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The last of three suspects accused in a phone call fraud scheme to illegally obtain prescription drugs have pleaded guilty.

Roberto House and Lavelle Butler were in court for status conferences Tuesday when they each pleaded guilty to possessing a controlled substance, specifically analogue drugs.

As part of the pleas, both men agreed to testify against their co-defendants.

A third suspect, Jermaine Traylor, previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of possessing marijuana, driving with a suspended license and providing a false ID. In turn, the felony prescription drug fraud charges against him were dropped.

Sparta police said the men called the Sparta Family Fare Pharmacy from out of state, posing as a doctor from Arkansas who wanted controlled substances. Police said the poor quality of the call was a hallmark of phone number spoofing apps.

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

The call raised a red flag for the pharmacist, who contacted police. Officers worked with the pharmacist to track down and arrest the suspects after they showed up to pick up the prescription.

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

Officers say the suspects, who have ties to the Chicago area, tried their scheme all along Michigan’s west coast. Police found empty bottles of similar drugs in
the suspects’ vehicle. They don’t know if drugs were for personal use or resale.

During Tuesday’s court hearing, the judge also revoked Butler’s bond and set his sentencing date for May 4, the court confirms.

House is expected back in court for sentencing on May 18.