FL: Publix pharmacist admits stealing pain meds almost every shift for a year, cops say

Orlando Sentinel News –

Pharmacist admitted starting off by taking one tablet at a time and increasing to eight at a time as his tolerance rose.

A pharmacist at a Lynn Haven Publix admitted stealing between 2,500 and 3,000 tablets of pain medication for over a year, police and the Florida Department of Health said.

Thursday’s emergency suspension (ESO) of Diviya Patel’s pharmacist’s license said he did it to deal with sickle cell anemia pain.

The 32-year-old now must deal with two counts of trafficking more than 4 grams of a controlled substance; and one count each of grand theft from $750 to $5,000; swindling to obtain property worth less than $20,000; and falsely omitting information on a report. Patel posted $25,000 bond in February.

A probable cause affidavit by Lynn Haven police investigators say Patel swiped 1,552 30mg oxycodone tablets and 1,429 10mg-325mg hydrocodone/acetaminophen tablets, starting in January 2019. The ESO puts the numbers at 1,494 oxycodone and 1,271 hydrocodone tablets, starting in March 2018.

Both agree things came to a head in late January and early February of 2020.

In January, a Publix Prescription Supervisor started looking into what was termed “poor management” at the pharmacy at 2310 S. Highway 77 in Lynn Haven.

“The PS observed 20 Schedule II controlled substance bottles on the counter, the controlled substances cabinet was not secured and the weekly count sheets could not be located,” the ESO said.

The ESO said security footage showed Patel “on numerous occasions” showing pharmacy technicians out, then returning to turn out the lights, put items in his bag, then leave.

When Publix Loss Prevention interviewed Patel on Feb. 6, the ESO said Patel admitted starting off by taking one tablet at a time and increasing to eight at a time as his tolerance rose. Patel admitted taking the pills during work and trying to cover things up by finagling with the “damage” or “cycle count” parts of the inventory.

“(Patel) advised he stole medciation almost every time he worked, with the thefts increasing as his tolerance for the pain medication increased,” the PC affidavit said Patel told Lynn Haven detectives.

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