News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Probation for pharmacist who stole drugs
Oct 16, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
After stealing narcotics, being arrested, and relinquishing his license, a former Lander pharmacist is getting a second chance.
Andrew Paxson, 34, pleaded guilty Oct. 3 to two charges for taking drugs for personal use from a safe at Shopko where he worked.
District Court Judge Norman E. Young, in accordance with a plea agreement, sentenced Paxson at the same hearing to five years of probation, which includes completing an addiction treatment program. If he completes his punishment successfully, the court will drop the felony charge against him.
Paxson told the court he also will be able to reapply for a pharmacist license in about a year.
"You are in a much better position than most of the people who sit in that (defendant's) chair," Young told Paxson. "You have the ability to recover from this ... so don't mess up."
The former pharmacist also will have to pay $15,000 in restitution to Shopko and $245 in court fees.
The Fremont County Attorney's Office charged the pharmacist with one felony, larceny by bailee, and a misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance. Together the counts carry a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison and an $11,000 fine.
Paxson told the court in early March that one day he went to a local store and a loss-prevention officer confronted him about missing narcotics.
"Eventually, I admitted to taking the drugs," the defendant said. "A police officer followed me back to my house, and I gave him a backpack of pill bottles."
The total retail value of the drugs, which included morphine and Adderall pills, was almost $4,800, he said.
Paxson will serve the five years of probation for the felony charge. Following a Wyoming statute, Paxson entered a guilty plea to the charge, and Young did not convict him. If the defendant finishes the probation, the court will drop the charge, and Paxson will not be a convicted felon.
The judge did convict Paxson of the misdemeanor and sentenced him to 180 days in prison. Young suspended the sentence in favor of three years of probation to run at the same time as the first probation term.
If Paxson violates his probation conditions in the first three years, he will be automatically convicted of the felony and face six months in prison.
According to an affidavit filed by Lander police officer Anthony Barry, an inventory audit of the pharmacy's medication occurred after an empty bottle of Schedule II drug capsules was found in the safe. The examination revealed that several bottles of drugs were missing.
Barry said the backpack he recovered from Paxson contained five 100-count capsule bottles of different medications.
In an interview with police, Paxson said he took two bottles of the drug Kadian -- also called morphine sulfate, a Schedule II controlled substance -- from the pharmacy.
Barry said he returned to the pharmacy with the bottles. Another store pharmacist counted the capsules in the bottles and noticed they did not contain the working ingredients.