BRATTLEBORO -- A New Hampshire woman faces 10 felonies and has been barred from a Bellows Falls pharmacy after authorities said she fraudulently obtained hundreds of prescription painkiller pills there.
Kathleen Whitcomb, 35, of Acworth, N.H., pleaded not guilty to prescription-fraud charges this week in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
She was released on court-ordered conditions, including prohibitions against obtaining any regulated drugs and entering Rite Aid in Bellows Falls, where she allegedly filled prescriptions for the powerful pain medications Oxycodone and Vicodin in March and April.
According to court documents released at Whitcomb's arraignment, a Rite Aid pharmacist on May 1 contacted Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Michael O'Neil, who is assigned to the Narcotics Investigation Unit as a drug-diversion investigator.
The pharmacist reported that he believed Whitcomb had filled five fraudulent prescriptions at the Bellows Falls store in two months' time. The pharmacist also told O'Neil that he had just received a phone call from an employee of Valley Family Physicians in Claremont, N.H.
That employee informed the pharmacist that "Kathleen Whitcomb had been filling forged prescriptions for Vicodin and Oxycodone that were written on blank prescriptions that had been stolen from Valley Family Physicians," where Whitcomb was an employee, according to O'Neil's affidavit.
O'Neil wrote that he obtained a copy of Whitcomb's Rite Aid pharmacy profile, which showed that she had been filling prescriptions at the Rite Aid in Walpole, N.H., since May 2012. The five most-recent prescriptions she had obtained had been filled at the Rite Aid in Bellows Falls between March 2 and April 7, 2014:
-- March 2: Supposedly written by Dr. Roy M. Barnes with "an illegible signature at the bottom," this prescription was for 100 Oxycodone tablets.
-- March 12: Again bearing Barnes' name and an illegible signature, this prescription was for 100 Vicodin tablets.
-- March 20: Whitcomb obtained 100 more Oxycodone tablets with a prescription purportedly from Dr. Bernard Rosen.
-- April 4: She filled a prescription, again attributed to Barnes, for another 100 Oxycodone pills.
-- April 7: Whitcomb obtained a refill from the March Vicodin prescription.
The pharmacist told O'Neil that Whitcomb had called in a Vicodin refill earlier in the day on May 1, before the investigator arrived.
"(The pharmacist) attempted to delay filling it for her," O'Neil wrote. "He told her they did not have any in stock and told her to call tomorrow to see if they could fill (the prescription). This prescription was never filled."
O'Neil contacted Valley Family Physicians, where Whitcomb had been office manager before going on leave for surgery in December 2013, court documents say.
An employee told O'Neil that the medical office had received a letter from an insurer "that brought their attention to prescriptions being filled by Whitcomb" in December and January.
"In reviewing the medications in her file, it was learned that she had filled numerous prescriptions that had not been written by Dr. Barnes, who is her physician," the affidavit says.
Further inquiries showed that Whitcomb had been filling apparently fraudulent prescriptions at Rite Aid stores in Bellows Falls and Walpole as well as at Walgreens in Walpole, court documents say. A joint investigation was opened with New Hampshire authorities.
On May 6, during an interview at her home, Whitcomb told investigators that "she had been on pain meds since the surgery in December and was taking pain meds frequently," O'Neil wrote. "She admitted that she had in fact stolen a prescription pad from the office at Valley Family Physicians."
Shown the prescription that had been filled March 2 at Rite Aid, Whitcomb "admitted she forged Dr. Barnes' signature. She said she was familiar with his signature and tried to make it similar."
A later prescription was from a stolen pad that Rosen had pre-signed, Whitcomb told police. Whitcomb never had been treated by Rosen, authorities said.
In addition to acknowledging the Bellows Falls prescriptions, court documents say Whitcomb "admitted to forging prescriptions at Rite Aid and Walgreens in Walpole, N.H. Many of these forgeries dated back several months."
In addition to the Vermont charges, Whitcomb faces one count of making or uttering a false or forged prescription in New Hampshire. Authorities said that charge is related to her fraudulently obtaining Oxycodone from the Walpole Walgreens.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.