Federal prosecutors said in court filings that Harold Eugene Fletcher earned more than the $1.8 million that he reported in 2005 and the $1.9 million that he reported in 2006 working at East Main Street Pharmacy in Columbus.
The government also alleges Fletcher conspired with Dr. Paul Volkman in 2005 and 2006 to illegally dispense several powerful painkillers. Volkman worked out of clinics in Portsmouth and South Point and was arrested in 2007 in Chicago, where he had a home.
Volkman goes to trial in March on charges of helping distribute millions of highly addictive pills that prosecutors said might have led to more than a dozen deaths. The indictment against Fletcher filed in September alleged he knowingly filled prescriptions for painkillers such as oxycodone he knew were not for legitimate medical purposes.
“Pharmacists do have an equal duty to not fill prescriptions that are issued for non-legitimate medical purposes. Ordinarily, pharmacists do a pretty good job of that. Our pharmacists locally don’t fill these prescriptions and they stopped filling prescriptions for Dr. Volkman almost immediately when he was here. So when people have to go 100 miles to a specific pharmacy, that raises a big red flag,” said Lisa Roberts of the Portsmouth Health Department and the Scioto County Prescription Drug Action Team. “His attorney claims that the 200-plus counts in the indictment are overkill. Our response is that there’s some overkill going on alright, but it’s our people that are dying.”
Barbara Howard of Portsmouth says her daughter, Leslie Cooper, died from an overdose after filling a prescription for several controlled substances at the East Main Street Pharmacy. She said her daughter overdosed after going to this pharmacy the first time.
“I think it’s a good thing that we’re seeing some action taken against these people who may possibly be breaking the law. We hope to see more of this,” Roberts said. “We would also like to commend the U.S. Department of Justice for their diligence and hard work on these cases.”
Fletcher’s attorney, Bradley Barbin, declined to comment Thursday, but in court filings Wednesday, Barbin said there’s no evidence Fletcher knew that a physician who wrote pain prescriptions didn’t have legitimate reasons for each one.
The indictment also charges Fletcher with money laundering and splitting up large deposits to avoid U.S. Department of the Treasury reporting requirements.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or rottney@ portsmouth-dailytimes.com. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this story.