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Former pharmacist accused of taking drugs

Edwards faces charges in AG probe

A former pharmacist who worked at a half-dozen grocery store pharmacies in central Pennsylvania is facing drug charges in Altoona.

Colt J. Edwards, 28, of Altoona, appeared before Magisterial District Judge Daniel DeAntonio on Wednesday for arraignment on a felony count of acquiring a controlled substance through misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge along with two counts each of misdemeanor drug possession and failure to keep records stemming from a state Attorney General’s Office investigation into Edwards’ alleged diversion of prescription medication while he worked as a “floating pharmacist” for Martin’s and Giant pharmacies.

According to charges filed in the case, an internal investigation by the company into Edwards turned up evidence he had stolen hydrocodone polistirex and chlorpheniramine polistirex extended-release suspension, a powerful liquid cough suppressant sold under the brand name Tussionex.

Edwards allegedly admitted to both company officials and agents with the state Attorney General Office’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control that he would take the hydrocodone into the employee area of the pharmacies where he was working, remove the drug from its bottle and replace the amount he took with distilled water.

The company brought the matter to the attention of state narcotic agents and the Drug Enforcement Administration in October after an inventory was conducted and discrepancies were found at multiple store locations in Blair, Centre, Mifflin and Indiana counties, according to the charges.

Investigators noted in the charges that a few weeks before the pharmacies were inspected, Edwards had been caught stealing groceries at the Martin’s Food Store at 200 E. Chestnut Ave. The day after he was caught stealing groceries, company officials learned he may have diverted drugs.

Edwards confessed to company officials in late September and was fired, according to the charges. The theft of the drugs stretched back to the spring of this year, Edwards allegedly admitted when questioned by agents.

Investigators noted security camera’s showed Edwards’ attempting to conceal what he was doing by turning his back to cameras or going to areas of the pharmacy where he couldn’t be seen. In all, the company turned over 16 DVDs of security footage to state narcotics agents.

Along with the hydrocodone, Edwards allegedly stole zolpidem, a sedative, and tramadol, a pain medication.

Investigators noted six locations of Martin’s and Giant pharmacies had drugs diverted by Edwards, including the East Chestnut Avenue and Logan Boulevard Martin’s Pharmacy locations in Altoona as well as the Duncansville store.

The three other pharmacies where Edwards worked and allegedly diverted drugs were the Giant pharmacies in State College, Burnham and Indiana. Giant and Martin’s are owned by the same company.

A company spokesman declined to comment Wednesday and referred any questions to police.

Edwards was released on an unsecured $25,000 bond following his arraignment Wednesday. A preliminary hearing is slated for Dec. 18 at Central Court.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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