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Police in DeKalb County seeing more thefts, illegal sales of prescription drugs

Pharmacy technician Karen Lehan fills prescriptions Jan. 2 at Lehan Drugs in DeKalb.
Pharmacy technician Karen Lehan fills prescriptions Jan. 2 at Lehan Drugs in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Whoever broke into Lehan Drugs last month to steal prescription drugs and cash might have been more interested in selling the drugs than using them.

DeKalb police are working with other police agencies to track down leads on who broke into the independent pharmacy between 9:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and 7 a.m. Dec. 4. They don’t yet know if they were local, what their motivation was or how many people were involved.

“Something like that doesn’t happen out here very often,” said DeKalb police Sgt. Steve Lekkas. “There’s a good chance this isn’t the first time they’ve done this.”

In general, suspects abusing prescription drugs or stealing them to sell on the black market make up a small portion – maybe 10 percent – of drug cases in DeKalb County, but police said such crimes have been increasing in the past two years.

It’s a problem that police see all over the county, even in small towns, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said.

“It’s always been somewhat of an issue,” he said. “People are getting prescription drugs, selling them, as well as unlawfully obtaining them.”

Young people, such as high school and college students, are the most common culprit when it comes to selling prescription drugs, because they are more commonly prescribed medication for legitimate disorders such as anxiety and
end up illegally selling their pills, Lekkas said.

Commonly abused prescription drugs include pain relievers and mood-altering drugs, Sycamore police Chief Don Thomas said. Drugs commonly sold on on the black market include the painkiller Oxycontin, anti-anxiety medication Xanax and Adderall, a stimulant commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Lekkas said.

“Many people who steal these drugs aren’t using the drugs themselves,” Thomas said. “They sell them on the black market or to people who are craving them.”

In Illinois, illegally distributing prescription drugs is treated as an offense which authorities charge the same as drugs such as cocaine, and penalties can include significant prison time.

For example, Nicole Benson, 21, of Somonauk, could face between six and 30 years in prison if convicted of drug-induced homicide charges she faces in connection with the death of a friend. Prosecutors allege Benson gave her friend, Kelsey I. McGuire, 19, of Leland, lethal amounts of hydrocodone and Xanax in March 2013, Dumdie said.

Benson, McGuire and a few friends slept at Benson’s house March 10 after partying, and Benson was unable to wake McGuire up in the morning, Dumdie said. Benson is next due in court Tuesday.

In another DeKalb County case, DeKalb residents Melany Laird, 30, and Jeffrey S. Hyde, 38, were charged with of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a controlled substance after Laird, a former pharmacy technician at Hy-Vee, stole 60 tablets of hydrocodone acetaminophen from Hy-Vee in February 2012, court records show

Both she and Hyde pleaded guilty to one of the felony counts. Hyde was sentenced to six months in jail and 2 years of probation in July 2012; Laird received credit for 18 days served in jail and was sentenced to probation and community service, records show.

To be proactive about stopping illegal prescription drug sales, the DeKalb Police Department conducts undercover investigations to try to buy drugs from dealers and arrest them.

In their last sting Oct. 8, DeKalb police arrested about five people selling prescription drugs, Lekkas said.

“People don’t think about it very often, but if you get caught [illegally selling prescription drugs], it’s just like having cocaine or heroin,” Lekkas said. “It’s really not much different.”

In Illinois

The state has a prescription drug monitoring program in which a statewide electronic database collects designated information on substances dispensed within the state, including where a prescription was issued and what the dosage of the prescription is.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration

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