Pharmacists, cops team up on illegal prescription
By Jesse Phelps
They say crime doesn't pay. Lately,
Ojai pharmacists are making sure that forged prescription crimes
won't even happen. For the second time in less than two weeks,
an Ojai pharmacy teamed with police detectives last Sunday to
catch a person attempting to illegally take large quantities
of prescription painkillers out the door.
Detective Joe Evans says that, in the wake of the last week's
arrest of an Ojai woman on a similar charge, he went to Medical
Arts Pharmacy to ask the workers there to keep their eyes peeled
for suspicious prescription orders.
"Later that afternoon, I got a call from a manager saying,
'Joe, guess what, we have one,'" he said.
It turns out that, just a few hours after Evans' visit, a suspicious
caller requested a prescription for 90 pills of Norco, a powerful
10-milligram synthetic opiate, a combination of hydrocodone with
Tylenol. The prescription could be verified at the appropriate
doctor's office by neither the pharmacy nor the detectives.
The following day, according to Evans and pharmacist Roger Lancaster,
a woman named Julia Konrad came in to pick up the prescription,
which was in a man's name. At Evans' behest, Lancaster asked
that she bring in the man for whom the prescription had been
Evans was on the scene with detectives Mark Hara and Rick Jones
"We followed her to another location," said Evans.
According to the arrest report, Konrad entered a residence and,
at that time, the pharmacy received a call from a deep-voiced
caller identifying himself as the prescription holder. The caller
insisted that the prescription be released to Konrad.
Evans said he suspected immediately that Konrad was making all
the calls. "Because of the timing of the surveillance, I
knew when she went in the house, I knew how long she'd been in
there and the phone call was immediate, then she's right back
out going back again. Very typical of people who need to have
some kind of drug," he said.
Evans followed her back to the pharmacy, where Konrad purchased
the pills. "I listened to her request the drugs, she signs
for them. I take her outside, talk to her and we end up arresting
her and she admits she has a significant addiction," said
Evans. "She was the one who made the phone call (from the
residence), she was the one who made the original phone call."
Oak View resident Konrad, 49, who by all reports was very cooperative,
was booked into Ventura County Main Jail on a felony and later
released on her own recognizance.
Evans said that evidence found in the suspect's vehicle suggested
that she made frequent trips "up and down the coast of California,
from San Diego to San Francisco" to pick up prescriptions
at various pharmacies all over the state.
He also said he believed the suspect was a former doctor who
had her license revoked "for an addiction issue." This
could not be verified through the Medical Board of California;
such records are sealed.
As in last week's arrest, said Evans, the crucial factor was
the pharmacy's awareness and willingness to help. "It's
very obvious as a group, we're much more successful than we are
as just the police or just the pharmacist. Together we're very
successful," he said.
Lancaster said his employee was the alert party. "I wasn't
here but the other pharmacist was," he said. "She noticed
an irregularity so she called (Evans). I came in the next day
and then it was my turn to finish up with the whole thing."
He the detectives handled everything smoothly. "He told
us exactly what to do, he came in and bought a soda and watched
the whole thing." Then, when the suspect was out the door,
the arrest was made.
Lancaster said he considers it a responsibility of his job to
keep a watchful eye out for false prescriptions and he gave kudos
to the police for their increased interest. "It used to
be that vice and narcotics didn't want to be bothered with anything
like this. But now they really want to enforce it and become
a part of curtailing it," he said.
Evans said that's because there is still a significant problem
with prescription drugs in Ojai. He offered himself as a resource
for parents who think their kids may have a problem, saying he
knows the people who can assist.
"I have enough experience in the community that I will be
able to help them with what's in their best interest. Arresting
isn't always in the best interest of the child," Evans said.
"The community wants us to help fix this and we want to
help fix it."
He said that, in the case of pharmacy collars, he's looking for
the people that intend to supply the community's kids. "In
the coming months, we are going to get that person," he
He also reinforced that he didn't believe Konrad intended to
sell the drugs she'd obtained. "We believe this is just
an addiction problem for her, she's not a drug dealer,"
said Evans. "We're hoping that the court system can step
in and give her some help. It depends on the judge, of course."
The Ojai Valley News
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