INDIANAPOLIS - Forged prescriptions from a northwest Indianapolis hospital have been turning up at pharmacies all over town, and police say they’re pursuing charges against a hospital secretary with a lengthy criminal record.
The prescriptions were taken from pads that had already been pre-signed by doctors at St. Vincent Hospital in northwest Indianapolis, according to reports filed by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police prescription forgery detectives.
When pharmacists started becoming suspicious, police write in court papers that they traced the stolen prescriptions to a secretary in St. Vincent’s "case management department."
"It's just pathetic," said Joyce Dunaway, as she was visiting her sister in the hospital.
When she learned that the hospital secretary was working for St. Vincent despite a lengthy criminal record, she said it raised serious questions about security and the treatment of her loved one.
"What kind of care (is) my sister in right now? I had no idea. I don't understand why they didn't do a more thorough background on them," she said.
Call 6 Investigators dug into the background of that suspected hospital worker and it turned up numerous trips to jail and felony convictions, including:
• Burglary, 1998, 95 days on probation
• Dealing in Marijuana, 2003, 95 days in jail and probation for two years
• Misdemeanor theft/conversion of property, 1998, two days in jail
• Misdemeanor conversion of property, 1997, 10 days in jail and one year on probation
• Driving with suspended license, 1996, four days in jail
According to court records filed in the case, IMPD officers arrested a friend of the hospital worker as she was trying to pass some of the prescriptions at the Meijer store pharmacy on Pike Plaza Road in northwest Indianapolis.
Ruth Lee Harris, 35, was booked into jail on felony charges of forgery, possession of a controlled substance and prescription fraud. She posted bail and is set for another court appearance on Dec. 6 in Marion County felony court G-14.
Officers write in their arrest report that Harris and other friends of the hospital employee were posing as "caregivers" for other people whose names appeared on some of the stolen prescriptions. In at least one case, officers said the hospital employee was captured on pharmacy security cameras, trying to fill prescriptions with another person at her side.
In one case, the lead detective on the case wrote that a patient from St. Vincent was paid $200 by the hospital employee, who then handed him several prescriptions for powerful narcotic pain-killers like Oxycodone and Alprazolam (also known as Xanax). The patient was told he would be paid for "for his trouble" under the condition that he would hand the pills over to the hospital worker.
The police report points out that, "several other prescriptions throughout the Indianapolis area" were presented in that patient's name and other names, with officers tying all of the phony scripts to the St. Vincent hospital worker.
Call 6 Investigators pushed for answers from St. Vincent administrators about how a convicted felon could be hired into such a position. The hospital was also asked about its policies and safeguards in place for prescription pads that are pre-signed by doctors.
The hospital did not answer those questions, but did issue a written statement:
"St.Vincent Hospital takes this situation very seriously, and it is our priority to support and protect our patients and families. As this is an ongoing investigation, we have been in full cooperation with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. We will remain committed to delivering the highest level of care, and creating a safe environment for the communities we serve."
Hospital spokesman Johnny Smith Jr. did not address any of the specific questions from Call 6 Investigators in his written statement.
The 34-year-old hospital employee has not yet been charged with a crime. There was no answer at her apartment door when Call 6 Investigators tried to reach her on Wednesday.
IMPD officers write that she cleaned out her desk and refused to answer their questions. Her apartment was raided, with officers confiscating several items that contained her handwriting. The search warrant reflects that officers seized a journal, miscellaneous paperwork, a baby photo album, lecture notes from a school binder and a last will and testament.
Handwriting is being analyzed and IMPD said its investigation was still moving forward. The lead detective declined to answer questions about the case.
Dunaway, the hospital visitor, shook her head as she reacted to a convicted felon in a hospital job now facing new allegations.
"I'm not surprised if they already knew all that. They should have never trusted in her to believe that she could change," she said. "It makes you wonder if anything's safe in there. Who else have they hired?"