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5 admit guilt in federal drug case

Five people pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with a prescription drug trafficking ring that police have called the biggest such operation ever uncovered in the Buffalo area.

The five were among 33 people arrested last July in connection with a painkiller drug ring purportedly headed by Michael McCall, 58, of Cheektowaga.

The U.S. Attorney's Office accused McCall of running a ring that supplied addicts painkiller drugs obtained illegally from local doctors, patients and pharmacies.

Multiple felony drug charges against McCall are still pending, prosecutor Michael L. McCabe said in U.S. District Court.

Those pleading guilty to felony drug conspiracy charges before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny are:

Andrew Meidinger, 22, and Christopher Priebe, 23, both of Lancaster, who admitted that they illegally distributed oxycodone tablets to customers in the suburbs. Prosecutors said the two obtained drugs from Justin Doyle, an associate who in turn got them from McCall's ring. Charges against Doyle are still pending.

Elora Lee, 50; Sophia Wroblewski, 39; and Olivia Paschell, 41, all of Buffalo, who admitted that they sold McCall the painkiller drugs that local doctors had prescribed for their medical treatment.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Skretny said, Meidinger could face at least 30 months in federal prison; Priebe at least eight months; Lee at least 12 months; Wroblewski at least 10 months; and Paschell at least 15 months. The potential sentences are based on the amount of drugs each defendant admitted selling.

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said the McCall arrests followed a lengthy investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Police and other law enforcement agencies.

The five who appeared in court Tuesday were the first to plead guilty in the case, McCabe said. Court officials said three more defendants are expected to plead guilty later this week.

Skretny said Meidinger, Priebe, Lee, Wroblewski and Paschell will be sentenced in April.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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