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Patient investigated as pill dealer

Tue., Aug. 28, 2007

A suspected drug dealer who checked into Holy Family Hospital earlier this summer may have peddled prescription pills from her hospital bed.

In June, the 53-year-old woman raised suspicion among nurses and security staff after she appeared to be hiding medicine bottles under her hospital gown, according to court documents submitted by Spokane police in support of a search warrant.

Employees had already removed other prescription bottles, drug paraphernalia and a half-gallon bottle of vodka from her room. And her visitors stayed with her for only a short time, even though her condition was considered serious.

“If we have reasonable belief that there is criminal activity, we call the police,” said Leslie Moore, director of risk management for Holy Family.

The names of the woman and her alleged accomplices are not being published because no charges have been filed against them. She is no longer a patient at Holy Family, Moore said.

When police arrived June 18 and questioned the woman, she acted as though she was hiding something under her gown. When asked, the patient “removed two large bottles of pills she was hiding in the skin folds of her abdomen area,” the affidavit states.

One bottle contained 110 pills of atenolol, a beta-blocker relaxant, prescribed to the woman’s ex-husband, according to the affidavit. The other contained methadone – a drug used to treat heroin and morphine addicts – prescribed to one of the ex-husband’s friends.

If the woman had taken the drugs, they could have been an “extreme risk” to her health, the affidavit states.

Because hospital staffers had previously removed other drug bottles, they said she must have obtained these bottles from a visitor. She told investigators that she got the drugs from her ex-husband because she is his caregiver, but she denied that some drugs had been removed and others had arrived, the document states.

The woman’s ex-husband also denied bringing her new drugs, but changed his story after police told him the original prescription bottles were removed, according to the affidavit. He brought his ex-wife new drugs because she is his caregiver, he told police.

But neither could explain why some of the pills were prescribed to someone else. When he was questioned, the ex-husband told police, “I better talk to a lawyer,” the affidavit states.

The previously removed bottles and baggies contained methadone, atenolol, the pain-killer hydrocodone and clonazepam, an addictive anti-anxiety medication. There also were several dozen unidentified pills, the document states.

Methadone and hydrocodone are Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they have high potential for abuse. Clonazepam is Schedule IV, with low risk of abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Atenolol is simply a prescription drug.

The woman is being investigated for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, according to the affidavit. She has several arrests for possession on her record.

The ex-husband has a prior drug arrest. His friend, whose name was on at least one of the bottles, has several previous drug arrests.

Security and police found $3,045 in the woman’s purse, according to the document. Though she said $2,000 was from selling her car, investigators confirmed she had no vehicles registered to her and had not recently reported a car sale.

“(She) could not provide details of the sale, of the vehicle itself or how she came about having $1000 more (than) she thought she had,” Detective Elise Robertson wrote in the affidavit.

With the search warrant, Robertson requested the patient’s visitation log from the hospital to determine who may have bought drugs from the woman and to identify people for questioning. The warrant is also for the woman’s medical records, the pills that Holy Family security confiscated and the names of any witnesses to the possible criminal activity.

Moore said she is compiling the requested information, adding that Holy Family complies with all legal requests.

“I don’t know where the case is, if there is an investigation,” Moore said. “It’s strictly an accusation.”

Spokane Police Department spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said she could not comment on the case because it is still under investigation. Robertson did not return a phone message Monday.

Holy Family would not release any further information. The hospital does not involve police unless there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, Moore said.

“People have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they come to the hospital,” she said. “We don’t search people.”


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