By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
A London couple who allegedly illegally sold prescription drugs through two pharmacies they operated in Clay County appeared in U.S. District Court last week for their arraignment.
Charles Terry Tenhet, 61, and his wife, Melissa L. Tenhet, 49, both pleaded not guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram on Jan. 8.
Charles Tenhet appeared with his defense attorney, Brandon Marshall, of Lexington. Melissa Tenhet’s defense attorney is David Hoskins, of Corbin.
According to an affidavit filed in September 2012 by Douglas I. Dalrymple, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, said the Tenhets owned Community Drug and Medi Center pharmacies and that “Community Drug regularly fills prescriptions for controlled pharmaceuticals from out-of-state pain clinics, and the prescriptions are filled despite indicators that customers are involved in the diversion of controlled substances.”
The investigation began a year ago, and in September, search warrants were issued for the pharmacies, a storage building and their London home.
In December, arrest warrants were issued for the couple. Charles Tenhet was arrested Jan. 4 by U.S. marshals. Melissa Tenhet was arrested Jan. 7 by a DEA officer.
Both were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal pending further orders from the court, and remain jailed at Laurel County Correctional Center.
They are scheduled for a jury trial before Judge Amul R. Thapar beginning 10 a.m. March 4 at the U.S. District Court in London. The trial is expected to last several days.
The affidavit states a new client base with out-of-state prescriptions for oxycodone began using Community Drug. Those clients were charged more for the drug than Kentucky clients. A Kentucky pharmacist interviewed by investigators reported that pharmacy charged $1,300 cash for 180 30-milligram and 120 15-milligram oxycodone pills.
That pharmacist said a comparable prescription for 120 30-milligram pills should cost about $43.
According to the affidavit, Charles Tenhet, a pharmacist, tried “to conceal his illegal distribution of oxycodone by changing prescriptions written for other non-scheduled drugs to prescriptions for oxycodone.”
The affidavit also states one of Tenhet’s employees was instructed to change information in the business’ computer records before DEA agents arrived. Tenhet also reportedly “borrowed” oxycodone from Medi Center because of deficiencies at Community Drug.
The affidavit cites a source used by the Clay County Sheriff’s Department who saw Melissa Tenhet take an unlabeled pill bottle from an individual and subsequently return the same bottle to the individual after it had been filled with prescription drugs.
Federal investigators were also told the Tenhets routinely worked Saturdays and that their customers with out-of-state prescriptions were aware of this. The source said cash payments were required for the out-of-state prescriptions and that there were days when the pharmacy’s cash drawer had to be emptied three times so the drawer would close.
“On one occasion the source counted $20,000 from sales in one day,” the affidavit states.
A confidential source for Operation UNITE saw a known drug dealer hand Melissa Tenhet three empty pill bottles. The drug dealer told the source, “Watch this. I’m gonna get mine filled all the way to the top,” the affidavit states. Melissa Tenhet allegedly filled the bottles with Xanax, fluracet and neurotin.
During the September search of the Tenhets’ home, the affidavit states agents found nearly $450,000 cash, records related to Community Drug, information about vehicles registered to Community Drug, as well as other items.