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Prescription scam results in guilty plea, prison time

Posted: March 22, 2012 - 11:05pm
Robert Biddinger enters Juneau Superior Court Thursday to change his plea to guilty of misconduct involving a controlled substance.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Robert Biddinger enters Juneau Superior Court Thursday to change his plea to guilty of misconduct involving a controlled substance.

A Juneau man pleaded guilty Thursday to two felony drug charges after it was discovered he picked up prescriptions for Vicodin that a dental assistant was calling in for him when he was never a patient.

Robert A. Biddinger, 44, admitted in Juneau Superior Court he picked up 20 Vicodin pills at the Safeway pharmacy in Juneau on Aug. 18, 2011, and 20 Vicodin pills at the Foodland Super Drug pharmacy on West Willoughby Avenue on Sept. 1, 2011.

Meanwhile, the woman he was allegedly acting in concert with, Donya R. Owens, 29, a dental assistant, maintains her innocence. A jury trial in her case is scheduled to begin May 7.

Prosecutors said in court the two were in a romantic relationship at the time, but did not specify what exactly their relationship was, or if they are still together.

The pair were indicted by a grand jury in January and altogether were charged with 44 felony counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. The charge read that they, acting together and individually, did knowingly obtain possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.

That’s a felony that can carry up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine, though presumptive sentencing for a first felony conviction is zero to two years in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said the couple were caught after a pharmacist who works for both Foodland Super Drug and Juneau Drug Co. Inc. thought it was suspicious Owens was calling in prescriptions for Biddinger and was asking for return calls to be placed to her cell phone. When the pharmacist called the dentist’s office Owens purported the prescriptions had been issued from, the office of Richard J. Cook said no prescriptions had been written for Owens.

Richard J. Cook is a local dentist located on West 12th Street, according to the Juneau and Southeast Alaska Yellow Pages.

Kemp said Ellen Cook from Cook’s office called the Juneau Police Department to report Owens was calling various pharmacies in town and authorizing prescriptions that were not authorized by the attending dentist.

Police investigated further, obtained multiple search warrants and found that the duo hit every pharmacy in Juneau, Kemp said.

“Ms. Owens was, in her capacity working at the dental office, authorized to call in prescriptions for individuals, but not Mr. Biddinger because he wasn’t a patient,” Kemp said. “But she in fact did so, at every single pharmacy here in town. For his part, Mr. Biddinger would go to these various pharmacies and pick up his prescription.”

According to charging documents, the act lasted from Aug. 18, 2011 to Nov. 1, 2011.

Kemp went on to say both Biddinger and Owens lost their jobs over this. Kemp said when Biddinger was contacted by police, he stated, in essence, “We are down in Washington state for the Thanksgiving weekend. We really messed up. We lost our jobs over this. We’re probably going to lose our house over this, it was stupid.”

Kemp continued her summary, saying Biddinger had surgery and became addicted to pain killers his doctor prescribed him.

She quoted him, saying, “I became addicted to the pain medication that he was prescribing me. I would basically call him up and ask him for a refill and he would give it to me. I finally had to call and tell him to stop prescribing the medications, and he did, and so I called Donya to do it. Donya very reluctantly agreed. I never sold any pills, I took them all.”

In a plea deal, Biddinger pleaded to the two felony charges and the other counts were dismissed. The deal calls for two years to serve with one year suspended on each count with six months to run concurrent. That equates to 1 1/2 half years to serve with an additional two years suspended.

Biddinger didn’t address the court, but inquired into how “good time” works in prison. Judge Philip Pallenberg informed him that the Department of Corrections determines good time, but that it generally means for every two days served in prison, one day is knocked off a sentence. So in Biddinger’s case, that would equate to about a year to serve if good time is applied, Pallenberg said.

Pallenberg ordered a pre-sentence report and scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 8.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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