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Former city worker faces drug charges

Doris Prather turned herself in to Pinellas Park police Monday. She's charged with using fraudulent prescriptions.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 26, 2002

PINELLAS PARK -- A former employee with the city's personnel department was arrested on 15 charges of fraudulently obtaining prescriptions and withholding information from her doctors.

Doris Prather, 48, of 5991 67th Ave. N, turned herself in to Pinellas Park police about 8 a.m. Monday and was taken to the Pinellas County Jail where she remained Tuesday.

Prather was charged with nine felony counts of obtaining hydrocodone, oxycodone and Xanax through fraudulent prescriptions at several south Pinellas pharmacies during February, according to the Pinellas Park police. She also was charged with an additional five felony counts and one misdemeanor count of obtaining drugs from multiple doctors within 30 days without informing them of other prescriptions, police said.

Hydrocodone is a narcotic pain reliever and cough suppressant similar to codeine. Hydrocodone abuse has increased during the past decade, according to the Diversion Control Program of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Oxycodone is another narcotic painkiller. Its trade names are Oxycontin, Percodan and Tylox, according to the Diversion Control Program.

Xanax is used to treat anxiety and panic.

Prather did not return a phone message asking for comment. In an interview earlier this month, she denied any wrongdoing.

Prather could receive up to five years in jail for each of the felony counts, said Sgt. Dan Levy, Pinellas Park police spokesman.

Levy declined to elaborate on the situation, saying the investigation continues and the report was "sealed."

Prather worked for the Pinellas Park city government from 1999 until she was fired in May. City officials who fired her said she admitted to breaking drug laws and had falsified employment records.

But Prather, who won awards for her job performance and consistently received the two highest rankings of "outstanding" or "exceeds expectations" on evaluations, denied those charges.

During an interview earlier this month, Prather said she hurt her back and became addicted to pain medications while working for a doctor. Because she worked for a physician, she was able to call in a prescription for herself and was charged in 1996 with obtaining a prescription by fraud.

Prather said she kicked her addiction and completed pretrial intervention. Adjudication was withheld and the records were sealed. She said her attorney told her she could deny being arrested.

She took her attorney's word and denied being arrested when she applied with the city in 1999 and again on her application to the Citizens' Police Academy, she said. A background check apparently turned up no criminal charges.

Things seemed to be going well, Prather said earlier this month, until she had a relapse within the past year. She saw one doctor for a herniated disc, another for surgery on her elbow and a third for dental work. Each gave her a prescription for pain medication, but city records show she did not tell the doctors of the other prescriptions.

In February, Prather said she saw herself having trouble again and checked into a detox center. She said she told city officials where she was going and why.

It was that admission, she said, that got her into trouble with her employers.

During the spring, Pinellas Park police asked to talk with her. They had apparently arrested a friend and her daughter, who told them about Prather. Prather said she voluntarily talked with police at the time to explain that she had done nothing wrong.

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