Pharmacy staff aids in prescription drug bust
By Jesse Phelps
Overdosing on drugs seemed to
have gone out of vogue in the early 1970s but a disturbing rise
in drug use among valley youngsters has put the fear back into
Ojai. OxyContin has been a buzzword and a buzz-kill, and it's
no laughing matter. And the problem substances don't end there.
Thanks to concerned citizens,
however, Ojai is fighting back.
On Tuesday afternoon at 12:30, the Ojai Sheriff's Department
received a call from Ojai Rexall, the Good Neighbor Pharmacy
located next to Vons on Maricopa Highway. The pharmacy had received
a phone call from a female who identified herself as an employee
of a local doctor and ordered 100 Soma for a patient named Mary
An unidentified employee of the pharmacy then called the doctor's
office to verify the prescription, but was told no order had
been given. Next, before the employee could alert the police,
Franck reportedly called to verify that her prescription order
had been filled. She was told it had been and that she should
come in to pick it up.
With red flags flying, the employee then dialed the station.
"They believed a subject had called in a forged prescription
for Soma and they were requesting that a police officer come
out to their facility, said Detective Joe Evans. Detectives Mark
Hara and Evans were alerted and the two proceeded to the drugstore.
At lunch hour in a busy mall, with customers everywhere, Hara
took up a position outside the store.
Evans said he entered the Ojai Rexall and walked to the back
of the establishment, to set up surveillance where the pharmacy
is located. "While I was in the back, interviewing people
about the circumstances of the possible crime, the woman who
was there to pick up the prescription walked in, identified herself,
and actually purchased 100 Soma."
Once the prescription was paid for, said Evans, the police had
cause for an arrest.
After allowing the purchase, Evans said, he walked outside to
where detective Hara had contacted and detained the suspect,
Mary Jane Franck, 42, of Ojai. Franck said she had obtained the
prescription from her doctor.
"Thanks to the pharmacy," said Evans. "They knew
that was false. They knew that because of the type of order,
it was very unusual someone would do this so their red flags
Evans said the people at the pharmacy were responsible for preventing
a potentially hazardous situation. "It's our belief that
she phoned in the prescription, then went in to pick it up,"
Evans said. "If it hadn't been for the people working at
the pharmacy at the time thinking something wasn't right, we
would have had 100 somas out on the street again. And that's
not something that we want. We have a problem with prescription
drugs in our community."
It seems drugs like Soma, a "high-strength" skeletal
muscle relaxant classified as a controlled substance, keep finding
ways into the wrong hands. The flipside is that with the preponderance
of premature deaths due to painkiller addiction in Ojai over
the last couple of years, community awareness is at an all-time
"It's a problem for us," said Evans. "The nice
thing about it is, because of all the community involvement through
the high school program and the parents association, through
that whole process, the community's very aware of it and these
pharmacists are aware of it. And these pharmacists are taking
it upon themselves to say, 'Hey, we're going to get involved
with this and wherever we can, we're going to make a difference.'
And they totally did that."
Dutch Atchley, owner of Ojai Rexall, preferred that his employees
not be interviewed and said he was uncomfortable discussing specifics
of the case but said that he felt his employees "did a very
good job in this case as far as detecting" a red-flag situation.
Atchley did concur that Ojai has a serious drug problem and that
awareness, coupled with the nature of the business, has made
training and recognition part of the job description.
In his line of work, said Atchley, it's safety first. "We've
always taken an interest in the safety of health care delivery
to all community members. When you have issues coming up in the
Ojai Valley about prescription misuse, you become more acutely
aware of that and you are very cognizant of every prescription
Evans said safety was a concern for him as well and that the
arrest was handled with care. "These pharmacists had a whole
building full of customers when this occurred. But nobody even
knew it was going on because we did it all outside," he
said. "None of the customers were in danger, the pharmacists
weren't in any danger and obviously the detectives weren't in
He said the real heroes of the day were the pharmacy workers.
"We were just the tool that got to stop it," said Evans.
"But if it wouldn't have been for their interference, their
recognition and their willingness to step out on a limb - I mean
we have members of our community that are stepping up to bat.
They totally made the difference."
Atchley said his main concern is the health and safety of all
members of the community, including those who attempt to buy
the drugs illegally out of desperation. "I wish that we
could follow through. If the case is that this individual needs
help, I hope that they can get the help that they need,"
Franck, arrested for obtaining a controlled substance via false
prescription, was booked into the Ventura County Main Jail and
her bail was posted at $10,000. Charges have been forwarded to
the Ventura County District Attorney's office for filing. Evans
said Franck was not arrested for intent to sell the substance
because there was no evidence to corroborate such an assumption.
He also said that Franck maintains her innocence by continuing
to claim it was a lawful prescription.
The Ojai Valley News
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