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October 15, 2012

Pharmacy owners under investigation

Laurel couple targeted for drug trafficking

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A Laurel County couple who own two Clay County pharmacies were the target of an investigation into illegal drug trafficking, according to documents filed in London’s U.S. District Court.

The civil action calls for the forfeiture of property owned by Terry Tenhet and his wife, Melissa Tenhet, at 300 Blackberry Lane, London, in Hemlock Falls Subdivision.

According to an affidavit filed Sept. 13 by Douglas I. Dalrymple, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, the Tenhets own Community Drug and Medi Center pharmacies and that “Community Drug regularly fills prescriptions for controlled pharmaceuticals from out-of-state pain clinics, and the prescriptions are filled despite indicators that customers are involved in the diversion of controlled substances.”

The drug trafficking investigation began in January and resulted in a Sept. 11 search of the Tenhets’ Clay County businesses, a storage building and their London home.

The affidavit states that a new client base with out-of-state prescriptions for oxycodone began using Community Drug. Those out-of-state clients were charged more for the drug than Kentucky clients. A Kentucky pharmacist who was interviewed as part of the investigation reported Community Drug charged $1,300 cash for 180 30-milligram and 120 15-milligram oxycodone pills. That pharmacist said a comparable prescription for 120 30-milligram pills should cost about $43.

An employee at a Georgia pain clinic that was searched June 14 said the clinic routinely referred patients to Community Drug to fill prescriptions written at that clinic. The employee had memorized Community Drug’s phone and fax numbers, the affidavit states.

During the investigation, Terry Tenhet, who is a pharmacist, tried “to conceal his illegal distribution of oxycodone by changing prescriptions written for other non-scheduled drugs to prescriptions for oxycodone.” The affidavit also states one of Tenhet’s employees was instructed to change information in the business’ computer records before DEA agents arrived. Tenhet also reportedly “borrowed” oxycodone from Medi Center because of deficiencies at Community Drug.

The affidavit cites a source used by the Clay County Sheriff’s Department who saw Melissa Tenhet take an unlabeled pill bottle from an individual and subsequently return the same bottle to the individual after it had been filled with prescription drugs.

Federal investigators were also told the Tenhets routinely worked Saturdays and that their customers with out-of-state prescriptions were aware of this. The source said cash payments were required for the out-of-state prescriptions and that there were days when the pharmacy’s cash drawer had to be emptied three times so the drawer would close.

“On one occasion the source counted $20,000 from sales in one day,” the affidavit states.

The source was once advised not to report to work alone because people had lined up outside Community Drug before it opened. Some of the pharmacy’s employees became scared and started to carry guns, including at least one pharmacist.

A confidential source for Operation UNITE saw a known drug dealer hand Melissa Tenhet three empty pill bottles. The drug dealer told the source, “Watch this. I’m gonna get mine filled all the way to the top,” the affidavit states. Melissa Tenhet filled the bottles with Xanax, fluracet and neurotin.

Another source reported receiving 60 Xanax pills for $20 from Melissa Tenhet despite not having a prescription for the drug. The same source was able to get a prescription filled two weeks’ earlier than it should have by Melissa Tenhet.

During the Sept. 11 search of the Tenhets’ London home, the affidavit states agents found nearly $450,000 cash, records related to Community Drug, information about vehicles registered to Community Drug, as well as other items.

A complaint filed with the affidavit states, the Tenhets’ Hemlock Falls Subdivision property, which consists of two tracts, “represent proceeds of drug trafficking and were used to facilitate drug trafficking,” making them subject to forfeiture.

Attempts to reach the Tenhets at their Laurel County home as well as their Clay County businesses late Monday were unsuccessful.

As of Monday, it was unclear whether the Tenhets might be or have been criminally charged in regards to the investigation.

bkillian@thetimestribune.com

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