Saturday, April 21, 2001

Butler arrests 13 in OxyContin sweep

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — More than a dozen people were arrested Friday — all but one on OxyContin-related charges — as the first major step in the Butler County sheriff's crackdown on prescription-drug abusers.

        “Prescription drugs weren't looked at as severely as cocaine and crack and heroin. But now the pharmaceuticals have become so prevalent, especially OxyContin, that we're starting to focus on them more,” said Sgt. John Sons, supervisor of the sheriff's drug investigation unit. “Pharmaceuticals are the most abused drugs on the street right now.”

        Friday marked the first time the sheriff's office has rounded up a significant number of prescription drug suspects in one sweep, Sgt. Sons said. Future sweeps are planned.

        Abuse of OxyContin, a powerful painkiller legitimately used by cancer patients, has emerged as a growing problem in recent months, he said.

        Prescription-drug abusers not only hurt themselves but may be ripping off insurance companies that pay for prescriptions, said Butler County Sheriff's Agent Randy Lambert. “One prescription for OxyContin can cost $750 for a month,” he said.

        Some of Friday's arrests resulted from anonymous tips, while others came from suspicions raised by doctors or pharmacists — and the list of suspects seems to be expanding exponentially, Agent Lambert said.

        “We've actually gone to a doctor's office or a pharmacy with one name, and walked out with 20 other names to investigate,” he said.

        By late Friday afternoon, deputies had arrested 13 of the 15 suspects wanted on prescription-drug warrants.

        Among Friday's arrestees were three members of the same Hamilton family: John B. Smith, 24; his 34-year-old wife, Kimberly, and his 50-year-old father, John M. Smith. All were arrested on warrants of deception to obtain a dangerous drug.

        “We have entire families who do nothing but "doctor-shop' to get prescriptions for drugs of abuse,” Agent Lambert said.

        Sheriff's officials accuse a Hamilton couple — Tim Pingleton, 34, and his girlfriend, Julia Wyatt, 35 — of selling drugs in the presence of a 4-year-old girl in the 1800 block of Tuley Road.

        Each faces charges of trafficking in drugs, permitting drug abuse, possessing drugs and endangering children.

        Others arrested were: Melanie Horn, 47, of St. Clair Township; Richard Raisch, 38, of West College Corner, Ind.; Stephen Isaacs Jr., 47, of Hamilton; Karin D. Estes, 33, of Fairfield Township; and four Hamilton residents, Christopher Lakes, 28; Stanley “Rick” Barker, 51; Johnnie Gregory, 58; and Shawn Southerland, 24.

        Mr. Barker is accused of trafficking and possessing the tranquilizer Valium; all the other suspects are accused of OxyContin offenses, sheriff's officials said.


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