Akron grandma does hard time for dealing pills; 376 abuse cases investigated over last 5 years

Arrest illustrates problem of pain pill abuse

AKRON, Ohio - On Jan. 12, 2011, Karen Grant, a great-great grandmother from Akron, met with a man to sell him pain pills. What the 61-year-old woman, with salt and pepper hair and glasses, didn't know was the man who wanted Percocet and Vicodin was actually an informant working for the Summit County Drug Unit.

Grant was arrested and last May she was sentenced by Summit County Judge Lynne Callahan to two years in prison for aggravated trafficking of drugs.

"I got busted," Grant told NewsChannel5.

Grant said she sold the pain pills because she fell on hard times and needed the extra money. She had a prescription for the drugs, but didn't use all of them. Instead, she made the decision to deal the pills.

Last week, Judge Callahan released Grant to a re-entry program after she completed nine months behind bars. After the hearing, Grant said she'll never make the same mistake again. 

"It's not worth it. It's not. Selling pills to anybody, or just abusing your prescriptions," Grant said.

Detective Pat Leonard, who works in the Akron Narcotics Diversion unit, chases people abusing, dealing or stealing prescription drugs, mostly narcotics, like Percocet, Vicodin and Opana.

He said "easy access to pills" has made the problem more alarming than ever.

"In my opinion, it's more significant than the crack and heroin problem. Prescription medication is abused everyday in all walks of life," Leonard said.

Leonard said, over the last five years, he has investigated 376 cases of pill abuse and made 273 arrests.  He quickly pointed out those numbers only scratch the surface. The veteran detective is pretty much a one-man show when it comes to investigating prescription abuse and doesn't have the time the follow up on every tip. 

"I could probably work overtime everyday and not catch up," Leonard said.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said multiple people have been indicted within the last month for forging prescriptions. 

"It does seem that we're seeing more in the past year than we have in pervious years," Bevan Walsh said.

Jennifer Grubb, 34, of Atwater, even used her pet in order to get her hands on Vicodin. Prosecutors said Grubb worked at a veterinarian's office and forged prescriptions in her dog's name, Molly, and then had them filled at various pharmacies.

Grubb was convicted of deception to obtain drugs and last month she sentenced to community control.  She did not return our phone call seeking comment.

"This is the only case that I can recall where somebody used their dog to get a prescription in order to support their drug habit," Bevan Walsh said.

Kim Sherman, a pharmacist at Ritzman Pharmacy in Green, said another problem is people who go doctor shopping.

"They will go from one doctor to another and the doctors don't know that they're getting prescriptions from another physician, so they're kind of doubling up on their medications that way," Sherman said.

Detective Leonard said a handful of people are making a living dealing pain pills. While Percocet and Vicodin may only net $2 or $3 per pill on the streets, a single Opana pill can go for as much as $50. Leonard said many abusers and dealers fail to realize that they're using or selling powerful and potentially dangerous pills and they're running the risk of addiction or overdose.

"Ultimately, the worse case scenario is death," Leonard warned.

Tonight on NewsChannel5 at 11, Chief Investigator Ron Regan uncovers an Akron doctor who's under investigation for allegedly over prescribing addictive painkillers, why search warrants were issued for his offices and what the doctor's own prescription drug records reveal.

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