May 15, 2009 in City

Pharmacist says ex-worker ‘snookered’ him

Employee charged with stealing drugs
Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 

Pharmacist averts robbery

 A would-be robber changed his mind at the behest of a pharmacist Wednesday night, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

 The man asked to be escorted from the Walgreens at 7905 N. Division St., and employees didn’t see which direction he went or whether he left in a car.

Deputies are asking for help identifying a suspect.

 Employees called 911 about 8 p.m. and said a man had handed them a note demanding prescription drugs.

 “When the pharmacist asked the man if he really wanted to go through with a robbery, the suspect asked to be walked to the front of the store,” according to a news release.

 The suspect is white, in his 20s, 5-foot-7, 145 pounds with blue eyes, a sore on the side of his lip and a tattoo near one eye. He wore a black-hooded coat, blue jeans and black sneakers, and spoke with an Eastern European accent, witnesses told detectives.

 Anyone with information about the attempted robbery or the man is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

 Two weeks ago, a north Spokane woman helped catch a suspected pharmacy robber down the street from Wednesday’s attempted robbery.

 Jeremy M. Mace, 22, pleaded innocent Wednesday to one count of first-degree robbery in Spokane County Superior Court.

 Mace was arrested with bottles of methadone April 30 after the woman spotted him running from the Rite Aid at 5520 N. Division St. and stayed on the phone with 911 as she followed him, according to police.

Prescription drug crimes plaguing Art Tyrrell’s independent pharmacy spurred him to merge his operations with Safeway last month, ending the pharmacy’s run of nearly 100 years on South Perry Street.

Burglars shattered windows and took hundreds of prescription medications regularly. The occasional gunpoint robbery left workers frightened and angry.

But it was the alleged betrayal of a store employee, accused of stealing medications and selling them on the black market, that sticks out in his mind when he talks closing the Spokane landmark.

“I’d been snookered,” Tyrrell said. “Totally snookered.”

Lisa A. Roth, 32, was arrested in October and fired shortly after. She pleaded not guilty to four counts of possession of distribution of OxyContin, hydrocodone and oxycodone this week in Spokane County Superior court after charges were filed last month.

It was a day Tyrrell wasn’t sure would arrive.

“I was beginning to think they were just going to drop it,” he said of the investigation.

Court papers filed last month show a tipster led police to Roth through an associate, Eric V. Crispin, 28. Crispin was also charged with three counts of delivery of OxyContin, oxycodone and Vicodin.

Police learned of Crispin in early October through a man who said he’d bought drugs from him.

That man arranged a buy through Crispin in early October and let Spokane County sheriff’s deputies watch, according to court papers.

Deputies arrested Crispin after they found hydrocodone, OxyContin and oxycodone in his car, according to a summary of facts by Deputy Eric Nelson.

In the two weeks that followed, deputies watched Crispin buy drugs from Roth twice, documents show.

“Crispin agreed to cooperate with law enforcement in exchange for consideration of criminal charges,” according to Nelson’s summary.

Deputies arrested Roth after the second purchase, on Oct. 16. Tyrrell was in Texas.

Roth, who couldn’t be reached for comment, had worked at the pharmacy for about a year and a half.

Investigators told Tyrrell she’d been stealing medications for about six months.

Court papers show Roth told a sheriff’s detective she’d been stealing the drugs and selling them to Crispin every three weeks for five to six months.

Tyrrell started working at the Safeway pharmacy last month, and many of his customers followed.

The drugstore on South Perry will remain open another couple of weeks as the last of its merchandise is sold.

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or at meghannc@spokesman.com.


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