A Thomaston nurse, who law enforcement officers say was struggling to feed an addiction, could end up facing more than 120 charges of fraudulently obtaining opiate drugs by calling in bogus prescriptions to local pharmacies.
Jennifer Brooke King, 211 Marlon St., so far faces 16 counts of fraudulently obtaining Schedule III Narcotics, but law enforcement officers say this is just the beginning.
Agents say the woman, while working for a Thomaston pediatrician, telephoned at least 150 phony prescriptions to local stores.
"She admitted to us that she had a drug problem," said Narcotics Task Force Agent Ken Partridge. "She was not trying to sell the drugs, but rather was getting them for personal use."
King is also accused of coaxing other women - at least five mothers of children being treated at Thomaston Pediatric Associates - into picking up prescriptions and delivering all or part of them to her. Charges against those suspects have been filed, and more are expected.
According to the press release from the Narcotics Task Force, King "would call in prescriptions to local pharmacies for minor children with the approval of their mothers. The mothers would obtain the scripts, charging the medication to Medicaid, then meet with King to sell, share or give King the medication."
King was booked on the charges Tuesday and freed on an $80,000 bond at 4:56 p.m.
According to warrants, King called in dozens of prescriptions for Tri-Vent (HC) 120 and Atuss 120 to Eckerd Drugs, Cherokee Pharmacy, Northside Drugs, and Wal-Mart between Jan. 5 and June 15.
The others involved face multiple felony charges, all accused of illegally helping King get the drugs. As the case unfolds, law enforcement officers say, as many as nine women could be charged, each facing between two and 10 counts.
Magistrate Judge William Hughley spent much of the afternoon Tuesday hearing testimony and signing criminal warrants. By 5 p.m., agents began driving the area, making arrests. The Times will publish the names of the others arrested once all suspects have been officially charged.
Task Force members say their investigation "still has a long way to go" and by the time the investigation ends, close to 200 felony charges could be filed. Partridge told The Thomaston Times the bulk of the charges will be filed in August when the case is brought before an Upson County grand jury.
But law enforcement officers, magistrate judges and King's former boss all agree that while the situation is criminal, it is also "sad."
Dr. Kathy Davis, King's employer of six years, was shaken by recent developments in the case. King, a licensed practical nurse, was fired from her job two weeks ago when evidence regarding the transactions began to surface to investigators.
"This whole thing is unfortunate," the pediatrician said when contacted by The Times. Expressing concern for King, Davis said, "She has been an employee of mine for six years and we have worked closely together. I became aware of a problem some time ago and even once took her to treatment myself," Dr. Davis said.
"We went through steps to fix the problem and in the end, those steps apparently failed," Dr. Davis said.
Dr. Davis had no involvement in the bogus prescription incidents and said allegations against King had no impact on the patient care provided by her practice.
"It saddens me" Dr. Davis said. "I feel like not only were laws broken, but also the integrity of the care of my children was thrown into question ... Although there were no adverse outcomes insofar as patient care, the situation called for immediate action, which was taken, and now it is in the hands of the legal system."
The investigation involved the Narcotics Task Force, Thomaston Police, the State Drugs and Narcotics Agency and the Department of Family and Children's Services.
Agents say the investigation is ongoing with the results being forwarded to the Secretary of State's Office, State Drugs and Narcotics Office, Georgia State Medicaid Fraud Department and the Griffin Judicial Circuit district attorney.