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1 1/2 years in prison for man guilty of prescription scam

Posted: June 15, 2012 - 12:05am

A former Juneau Youth Football League coach told a Juneau judge on Thursday getting arrested for illegally obtaining Vicodin last year might have been one of the best things that could have happened to him.

“I haven’t felt this good in years,” 44-year-old Robert A. Biddinger said during his sentencing hearing.

Being in jail has afforded him a chance to get “clean and sober” after battling an addiction to the pain killers for more than 18 months, he said.

Biddinger was arrested in January after a Juneau Police Department investigation revealed Biddinger’s girlfriend Donya Owens, a dental assistant, was calling in prescription orders for him. Biddinger, for his part, would pick up the drugs at the pharmacies.

Owens was authorized to call in prescriptions, but not for Biddinger, since he wasn’t a patient.

Prosecutors said the couple had scammed all the pharmacies in Juneau over a four-month period last fall.

Police had launched an investigation 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.

Biddinger and Owens were each indicted in late January on 22 felony counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Biddinger pleaded guilty in March, and he admitted two of the counts against him for picking 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.

A plea deal dismissed the other charges against him.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg sentenced Biddinger Thursday to serve a total of 1 1/2 years in prison for the crimes.

Biddinger received two years in prison with one year suspended for each of the felonies. Six months of sentence runs consecutively and six months runs concurrently, which accounts for the 1 1/2 composite sentence.

Biddinger is also required to be on probation for three years after he is released from custody.

Biddinger’s attorney Grace Lee explained to the judge that Biddinger became addicted to Vicodin after he had shoulder surgery in 2010. But after he had his rotator cuff replaced, he fell out of a truck and reinjured himself. He had to have the surgery again.

Biddinger said his doctor prescribed him Vicodin to cope with the pain, and that he was lawfully prescribed the pills for 18 months.

When he realized he was addicted, he called his doctor to tell him to stop prescribing the medication, Biddinger said.

“The phantom pains took over after that and I lost control,” Biddinger said.

Soon thereafter, he asked Owens to help him obtain the drugs. The scam continued from August to November, prosecutors said.

The pills were only used for personal use, and were never sold to anyone else, prosecutors said.

On Thursday, Biddinger expressed remorse for his actions, saying it was embarrassing. He said he would probably never coach football for the JYFL again.

“It was a really horrible thing that I did, and people got hurt,” he said.

Owens also has pleaded guilty and was sentenced last week to serve one year in prison. Her attorney, Kirsten Swanson, said Owens lost her job and will never be allowed to work in a dentist’s office again.

In the face of legal troubles, Owens is also now fighting to keep custody of her young children, ages 9 and 11.

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

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