The Drug Enforcement Administration recently dropped charges against a fugitive doctor charged in the nation’s largest prosecution of internet pharmacies because there was simply too much evidence. That’s right, too much evidence, not too little.

In 2007, Armando Angulo was indicted for a multimillion dollar scheme in which he sold prescription drugs to patients who were neither examined nor interviewed by a doctor. Angulo first came under investigation in 2004, at which time he fled from Miami, Florida back to his native Panama. Fortunately for Angulo, Panama refuses to extradite its own citizens.

With Angulo out of the country,  the DEA was left in the awkward position of maintaining the massive amount of evidence linked to the open case against the doctor. For years the DEA was storing over two terabytes of data in connection with the charges against Angulo. Two terabytes is a massive amount of data. Many millions of pages of data can be stored in two terabytes. This large amount of evidence against Angulo, however, became problematic.

The DEA only has approximately 40 terabytes of storage total. Because it appeared unlikely that Angulo was ever going to return the US, prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges against the fugitive for the sole purpose of freeing up the two terabytes of data space!

Even though two terabytes is a massive amount of data, it isn’t hard to acquire or overly expensive. A two terabyte drive can be bought on Amazon.com for $120. It seems strange that the DEA would be so limited in its digital storage space. Why can’t the DEA simply purchase more storage? Is it difficult to provide the necessary security? Surely, there is a good answer.

For Angulo, the answer is simply some good fortune. U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade granted the motion and dismissed the case with prejudice, barring it from being refiled in the future. Fortunately, there are other charges still pending against Angulo; nevertheless, this seems like an unacceptable reason for the DEA to have dropped a slam dunk case.

-Tracy Hancock

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One Response to Too Much Evidence, Too Little Storage

  1. Brad Edmondson says:

    I am disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that the DEA only has 40 TB of storage. While it is probably not appropriate for DEA data to be stored by a commercial cloud provider, this is a function that could scale well within the aegis of the federal law enforcement agencies.

    However they do so, hopefully they are working on lowering the cost of storage in order to avoid having to do this again.