Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: From left, Iriz Rivera, left, was sentenced Monday to four years on probation for her role in a statewide fraudulent prescription syndicate allegedly led by Poulos Tewelde, 23, Fahad Osman, 22, and Yafet Habtom, 21, who are from Washington.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – The woman caught up in a fraudulent prescription syndicate will spend the next four years on probation.
Iriz Rivera, 19, of Mesa, previously pleaded guilty to forgery – a Class-4 Felony – on Nov. 2, 2017, for her role in a statewide scam to receive fake prescriptions of promethazine. Rivera was reportedly one of a number of young girls the male defendants recruited to help procure the promethazine, which is an anti-histamine sedative. According to statements from Rivera to police, the group of men had illegally obtained the drug in Maricopa, Pinal, and Gila counties before being caught in Graham County. She said the men would receive $750 per bottle of promethazine they shipped back to Washington.
On Monday, May 21, Rivera was sentenced to four years of standard probation with the caveat that she testify against the men in the syndicate, including Fahad Osman, 22, and Poulos Tewelde, 23, both of Seattle, Wash., and Yafet Habtom, 21, of Lynwood, Wash.
On Monday, the Attorney General’s Office filed an indictment against the men in Graham County Superior Court, which included the original three charges of participating in a criminal syndicate, conspiracy, and fraudulent schemes and artifices – all Class-2 Felonies – and added two counts of assisting a criminal syndicate, four counts of forgery, five counts of taking the identity of another, two counts of attempted acquisition of narcotic drugs by fraud, and possession of narcotic drugs – all Class-4 Felonies – as well as two counts of acquisition of narcotic drugs by fraud, and three counts of attempted schemes and artifices – Class-3 Felonies. At least one other man has been listed as a defendant as well by the AG’s indictment, which came down after the case was heard by a grand jury, but he has not been served yet so the Gila Herald has been requested to not list his name. The fourth man was not with the other three when they were caught attempting the fraud in Graham County.
Local officers were on the lookout for the crew after they had hit up five area pharmacies the previous week in September 2017 with a different girl. On Sept. 22, 2017, officers were dispatched to Walmart at 755 S. 20th Ave. regarding prescription fraud involving promethazine. Later, they witnessed Rivera get out of a car containing the three other suspects at Walgreens in an attempt to retrieve a bottle of promethazine and all four were taken into custody.
Through Rivera’s statements and police work, a number of fraudulent prescriptions from pharmacies throughout the state were located, as well as bottles of promethazine found in the men’s vehicle that matched prescriptions from Bashas’ in Gold Canyon and materials for making the fraudulent prescriptions. Additionally, Habtom is listed as a suspect in seven separate cases in Washington regarding forged prescriptions for promethazine.
The three men are all out on bond and have returned to Washington. They were arraigned on the new charges Tuesday, May 22. The AG’s Office will now handle the prosecution.