Local News

October 12, 2012

Pharmacy owner: ‘You don’t want to believe’

Paul Bryant, co-owner of a Murray County pharmacy chain where two former employees are accused of stealing oxycodone, said he was stunned when a federal drug enforcement agent first approached him.

“We were completely shocked,” said Bryant, who along with Jeff Viktora owns the Living Well pharmacies in Eton and Chatsworth. “We do fingerprinting, background checks and random drug checks, and (the accused former employees) were clear on all three of those.”

Bryant said pharmacy technicians Amy Bearden, of Eton, and Sheila Cagle, from Cohutta, were fired after they were caught on surveillance video taking drugs from the store where they were employed.

Bearden and Cagle were indicted by a federal grand jury in Rome recently on five counts of distribution of oxycodone and one count of conspiracy. Also indicted on the same charges were Amy Johnson, 33, of Dalton, who has worked for eight years as a bus driver for First Student — a company contracted to provide transportation for students in Dalton Public Schools — and Jeremiah Fiek, 28, of Cohutta.

Investigators say Bearden and Cagle stole drugs from Living Well between at least May and June and that Fiek and Johnson sold them. A director from First Student said Johnson is on leave without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Bryant said his former employees surrendered their licenses so they can no longer practice in another store. Phone numbers for Bearden, Cagle and Fiek could not be found, and Johnson has declined to comment.

Bryant said a drug enforcement agent approached him and Viktora in the spring, saying they had a tip the two employees were using their jobs at the pharmacy to illegally sell drugs. He said he and Viktora cooperated fully with the investigation, including performing nightly counts of certain drugs and purchasing a surveillance system.

Bearden had worked at Living Well about nine-and-a-half years, and Cagle had worked there four years, Bryant said. He said when the agent initially approached him, he didn’t want to believe it.

He said that in addition to oxycodone, there were also antibiotics, inhalers and other kinds of drugs stolen. The co-owners are seeking restitution of about $7,000, but Bryant said he cares less about the money and more about making sure the former employees can’t get a job behind a pharmacy counter again.

“We had known them for years,” Bryant said. “Our customers had known them for years, and our customers were completely shocked when we let them go ... You don’t want to believe that about any of your employees.”

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