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January 29, 2013

Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge William J. Bryant announced Catherine L. Minor waived indictment and pled to a felony information charging her with one count of aiding and abetting James Derek Johnston to obtain hydrocodone by fraud.

Although hydrocodone abuse is rising among all ages and across all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, it has been called the ‘white-collar’ addiction because so many professionals have become caught in its trap,” stated Thyer. “Prescription drug abuse knows no boundaries. Its effect on careers and lives is devastating. If someone you know is involved in the abuse of prescription drugs, educate yourself, talk to them, take them to a substance abuse program, and seek medical advice. You can help prevent a loved one or co-worker from losing their career and you must might save their life.”

According to the felony information, Minor, age 62, who was employed as a nurse, aided and abetted James Derek Johnston, age 42, to knowingly and intentionally obtain hydrocodone, a Schedule III narcotic controlled substance, on or about February 8, 2012, when she submitted a false prescription for the drug to a pharmacy in Johnston’s name, when in fact, no such prescription had been issued or authorized by a physician with DEA prescribing authority.

At the hearing held today before United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes, Minor admitted that she worked as a nurse at Little Rock Diagnostic Clinic for 15 years, and retired in late 2012. She admitted that in approximately 2007, James Derek Johnston, who was employed at the clinic as Chief Executive Officer, began to request that she call in or fax prescriptions for hydrocodone in his name to a number of different pharmacies in the Little Rock area. While Johnston had received hydrocodone prescriptions legitimately from a physician at Little Rock Diagnostic Clinic in the past, the prescriptions Minor submitted for Johnston between approximately 2007 and July 2012 were submitted without the knowledge or consent of any prescribing physician at Little Rock Diagnostic Clinic or elsewhere.

According to the factual summary offered by the Assistant United States Attorney at the hearing, during the time frame in which the fraud occurred, Minor called in or faxed approximately 200 fraudulent hydrocodone prescriptions in Johnston’s name, allowing Johnston to obtain approximately 25,000 pills.

Johnston, who is no longer employed by Little Rock Diagnostic Clinic, waived indictment and pled guilty on December 18, 2012, to a felony information charging him with one count of obtaining hydrocodone by fraud.

The maximum statutory penalty for aiding and abetting another to obtain a controlled substance by fraud is 4 years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and one year of supervised release. Sentencing for both Minor and Johnston will be set at a later date to be determined by the Court.

LRDC was fully cooperative with federal authorities in the investigation, and the investigation did not reveal any evidence that compromised any patient information or identities.

This investigation was conducted by the newly formed Tactical Diversion Squad at the DEA Little Rock District Office, whose main priority is to investigate individuals involved in the diversion of Prescription Drugs. DEA special agents, DEA diversion investigators, United States Secret Service agents and task force officers from the Little Rock Police Department participated in this investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia S. Harris and Kristin Bryant.

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Christopher R. Thyer

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