United States government officials and law enforcement—as well as officials from countries around the world—have been fighting an ongoing war against illicit substances, often even referred to generally and collectively as the War on Drugs. Although there have been laws regarding the legality of certain substances since at least the late-1800s, it wasn’t until the Nixon administration of the 1960s—when drugs and substance abuse were increasingly associated with youth culture and the social upheaval of the era—that the US government began in-depth investigation into drugs, hoping to determine just how dangerous they were.
By the mid-to-late 1980s, a number of zero-tolerance laws were put into place under the Reagan administration, effectively criminalizing addiction to a very large degree. However, over the course of the proceeding decade, the War on Drugs began to shift from a punitive focus to a focus on treatment. The government’s battle against illicit substances and the abuse of drugs still rages today, but the strategy has changed; with rates of addiction being higher than ever, many have decided that the best way to curb the effect addiction has had on society would be to improve addiction prevention and treatment.
When it comes to addiction prevention, one of the main tactics has been to educate individuals on the dangers of substance abuse and the potentially profound devastation wrought on one’s life by the destructive force of alcohol and drug addiction. Meanwhile, the government and law enforcement have sought ways to reduce the amount of drugs that are available on the streets as a means of preventing addiction.
The problem with this scenario is that each type of drug on the street can be attributed to a wide number of sources, some of which might even originate from around the world. Between local and state law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), more and more sources of illicit street drugs are being cut off as part of the ongoing War on Drugs efforts. However, recently a surprising means of drug transport has been discovered and has had major implications regarding how drugs have been moved over great distances, both domestically and internationally.
The 1980s FedEx Narcotics Delivery Service
Gary Rullo worked as a FedEx courier based in Delaware in the 1980s. Rullo had a regular client who would send suspicious envelopes to Brooklyn, New York each week for an overnight delivery. The man sending these weekly packages was local pizzeria owner Vincent “Vinnie” Scotto, who had once put a gun to Rullo’s face over an overnight delivery that had somehow vanished while in transit to its destination in Brooklyn. “Gary, tell your… druggie couriers to keep theirs… hands off my shipments,” Scotto had said with the pistol pointed at Rullo’s head. “‘Cause if they don’t, they’re going to wind up dead.” When Rullo approached his manager at FedEx in order to express his concerns over the suspicious nature of Scotto’s packages, Rullo’s manager simply told him that it was his job as a FedEx courier to keep packages safe.
Rullo assured his temperamental client that the packages would remain safe, but only a couple months later Scotto suddenly stopped sending packages to Brooklyn. Although Gary Rullo wasn’t aware of it at the time, Vinnie Scotto—and 10 other men—had been caught shipping large amounts of heroin and cocaine throughout the United States and indicted on distribution charges. As a result, Scotto had had no choice but to begin working with the FBI, wearing a wire for over a year in order to lead the feds to the key players in the Delaware operation in which he’d been involved.
Interestingly, although Scotto and his cohorts’ involvement was well publicized in the media, not once was FedEx mentioned as being the actual means of drugs being moved around the country. However, Rullo—who wrote a book about his experiences as a FedEx employee—believes he has the answer to his question as he once heard a member of FedEx management boast that the company is “the number one shipper of illegal drugs in America.”
New Charges Brought Against FedEx for Transporting Drugs
In the summer of 2014, the United States Department of Justice named a new defendant in the ongoing War on Drugs, filing a 15-count indictment in federal court that was filled with accusations such as the transport of prescription pharmaceuticals that have been dispensed without a valid prescription, misbranding, violating the Controlled Substances Act, and money laundering.
As it turns out, prosecuting a company is much like prosecuting a person only easier since corporations don’t have the same rights as constitutional citizens. What’s more, while imprisoning people due to convictions is expensive the conviction of companies and corporations can be quite profitable for the government, especially when the conviction is possession and distribution of narcotics on such a huge scale.
The lawsuit alleges that FedEx received payment for its services from money that the company knew came from invalid prescriptions. What’s more, FedEx was found to have been helping illegitimate pharmacies launder their money by receiving payments and then immediately returning them. According to the case files, since 2004 FedEx had received repeated warnings that they were breaking the law by conducting business with pharmacies that essentially allowed individuals to purchase prescription drugs rather than receiving them due to a valid prescription.
The company is maintaining innocence and ignorance of the activities of its customers despite the memo that was found to have circulated among the company’s management, referencing the number of their illegitimate pharmacy clients and even the death of a teenager who overdosed on drugs that were delivered by FedEx.
Naturally, officials speaking on behalf of FedEx maintain the company’s innocence, proclaiming that the delivery service cannot and should not be charged with possessing what the actual law-breaks have delivered through a courier. While there’s a point to be made there, the law recognizes two types of possession: Actual and constructive. The former refers to actually, physically possessing the item, or, in this case, the contraband.
However, constructive possession is more complicated and considers possession to mean have ownership, control, or dominion over the item or the property where it was found, which is the case with the possession charges against FedEx. Again, the issue becomes whether or how much responsibility FedEx should take for the contraband delivered by the company’s couriers.
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