News and Press Releases

Hydrocodone Abused By Medical Professional

March 26, 2009

SHIRLEY G. MOLINA, 36, of Marysville, Washington, appeared today in U.S. District Court in Seattle and entered a guilty plea to the felony offense of acquiring a controlled substance (hydrocodone) by misrepresentation, deception, and subterfuge, in violation of federal law. This offense is punishable by up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Court documents indicate that during 2008, through November 25, 2008, when she was terminated, MOLINA was employed as a Pharmacy Technician at the Bartell Drug store in Lake Stevens, Washington. As a Washington State licensed Pharmacy Technician, MOLINA was authorized to fill prescriptions, and had regular access to controlled substances belonging to the pharmacy inventory. It was her lawful duty to fill prescriptions as directed by physicians, and not to engage in any theft, misappropriation, or unauthorized distribution of controlled substances.

During this time, MOLINA knowingly and intentionally removed from the pharmacy’s inventory quantities of hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance, which she thereafter diverted and misappropriated to her own unauthorized use. MOLINA unlawfully diverted several stock jars containing 500 10mg pills of hydrocodone, which she then consumed. She adjusted inventory records in order to conceal the theft. Several thousand pills of hydrocodone were unlawfully taken by MOLINA. A review of video surveillance film at the pharmacy showed MOLINA taking the pill bottles. On November 25, 2008, MOLINA was confronted by officers regarding her conduct, and she admitted to taking the hydrocodone. She turned over an additional bottle containing 500 hydrocodone pills that she had removed from the pharmacy and stored in her vehicle.

As part of her guilty plea, MOLINA agreed to repay restitution to the pharmacy for the value of the drugs taken.

MOLINA is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on June 26, 2009. While awaiting sentencing, MOLINA was ordered to submit to drug testing and treatment, and forbidden from engaging in any employment which allowed her access to controlled substances.

National statistics show an increasing level of unlawful diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical controlled substances, as well as overdoses of such drugs resulting in rising medical costs. The unlawful possession and diversion of such substances by individuals – be it by patients, non-patients, or by medical professionals, contributes to this escalating problem, poses a danger to the user and to others, and constitutes a violation of law. All dispensers of controlled substances, including pharmacies, are required by law to have compliance programs in effect designed to prevent the unlawful diversion of controlled substances.

This case is part of a continuing Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation focused upon the unlawful diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances within the Western District of Washington and elsewhere.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ronald J. Friedman.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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