Professionals charged with using their positions to help fuel the crisis.
Rena Lynne Schleehauf, 33, is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, theft and theft by deception after stealing more than $500,000 worth of an opioid treatment drug from her employer. Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Schleehauf, who was employed as a lead pharmacy fill technician, has admitted to stealing 66,180 units of Suboxone between August 2016 and July 25, 2019 from Johnson’s Pharmaceutical Services.
Schleehauf supervised the company’s inventory and ordered medications when supplies were low. “She ended up taking the Suboxone from the inventory after ordering the drug from Johnson’s supplier,” Shapiro said. He added that the company conducted an audit when it was first discovered vials of the substance were missing and discovered it had been ordered only when Schleehauf was working.
“Time and again this defendant ordered drugs, paid for them with company funds, removed them from the company’s inventory once they arrived and then loaded them into her car when no one was watching,” Shapiro said. He said surveillance video clearly showed Schleehauf placing boxes of Suboxone in her vehicle.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Katherine Jordan prosecuted the case. Office of Attorney General Narcotics Agent James Embree and the West Mifflin Police Department investigated. According to court documents, Schleehauf was arraigned before District Judge Richard D. Olasz Jr. in West Mifflin and was released on bail.
In late-January, an Akron, Ohio, doctor who had already faced federal civil action over alleged illegal prescribing practices was also charged with using his profession to criminally distribute oxycodone. Dr. Michael P. Tricaso was charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances, according to court documents, and “using this position as a medical doctor to distribute oxycodone outside of his medical practice sometime in the two-year span from April 7, 2016, and August 21, 2018.”
“The opioid crisis that we are facing today is the deadliest drug crisis in American history,” said Assistant Attorney General Joseph H. Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “For the first time, the Department of Justice is going to court to use civil injunctions to stop the spread of opioids to our communities. Today’s injunction means that this doctor – who allegedly sold and prescribed dangerous opioids without a legitimate medical purpose – no longer presents a risk of harm to patients or the community.”
The consent decree entered in during the hearing by Judge Lioi, and agreed to by Tricaso and the United States, “permanently bars Tricaso from dispensing, prescribing, or distributing any controlled substances,” according to court records. Tricaso has also agreed “never to reapply for privileges under the CSA to prescribe or dispense controlled substances.” He will also “never to apply for a license to practice osteopathic medicine anywhere in the United States.”
The case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch as part of the Justice Department’s Prescription Interdiction and Litigation (PIL) Task Force, which uses all available criminal and civil law enforcement tools to combat opioid overdoses in the United States.