SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (AP) — Ten people were arrested Friday on charges alleging they distributed drugs that helped fuel the worst HIV outbreak in Indiana history, authorities said.
They were indicted earlier in the week on charges that include conspiracy to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance, U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said.
Minkler said those individuals allegedly targeted Scott County, a southeastern Indiana county at the heart of Indiana's HIV outbreak, "with the goal of infesting that community with drugs, including the powerful prescription painkiller Opana."
Among those arrested are a Scottsburg couple, 38-year-old Bennito L. Rodriguez, and his 29-year-old wife, Brooklynn G. Mack. Authorities allege the couple orchestrated the movement of the Opana and methamphetamine in the Scott County city of Austin.
State health officials say Indiana's HIV outbreak has been driven by needle-sharing among people injecting a liquefied form of Opana. That outbreak has risen to 188 cases, nearly all have been in Scott County, about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, and centered in the small city of Austin.
Minkler's office said Opana typically sells for up to $160 per pill and can be dissolved and injected by up to four people.
U.S. Attorney's office spokesman Tim Horty said all 10 people made initial court appearances Friday afternoon.
It was not immediately clear whether Rodriguez or Mack had an attorney.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating in June with Scott County law enforcement to determine the source of the Opana and also methamphetamine which were prevalent in Austin and other parts of Scott County.
That county obtained state approval in April 2015 to implement a needle exchange to help slow the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users.
That came after Indiana lawmakers passed a law in response to the outbreak that allows counties to request approval for the programs that provide IV drug users with clean syringes to prevent needle-sharing that spreads HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases.