(BLOOMINGTON) - Former Benton Township Trustee Heather Cohee was arrested Wednesday on felony theft and drug charges after police accused her of stealing a prescription pad from a previous physician employer and then forging prescriptions to obtain hydrocodone.
Abby Tonsing of the Herald Times reports that it's likely that a special prosecutor from outside Monroe County will have to be assigned to pursue Cohee's theft and prescription drug charges, and an outside police agency might need to be assigned to investigate as well, since her husband, Todd Cohee, serves with the local sheriff's office, according to Monroe County chief deputy prosecutor Bob Miller.
Heather Cohee, 42, was booked into the Monroe County Jail at 1:31 p.m. She turned herself in at the jail after a warrant had been issued for her arrest. She faces felony charges of theft, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or deceit and obtaining or attempting to obtain legend drugs by fraud, which were filed Wednesday in Monroe Circuit Court. She was released less than an hour later at 2:20 p.m. on $2,000 surety bond, $500 cash, according to jail officials.
Convictions on the Class D felony charges can each carry 6 months to 3 years of jail time and $10,000 in fines.
The charges allege Cohee stole a prescription pad and obtained hydrocodone from local pharmacies by fraud from Dec. 27, 2010 through Feb. 24, 2012.
State police interviewed Cohee on Feb. 24.
On March 1, Cohee resigned as Benton Township trustee the evening before the release of a State Board of Accounts audit that mandated she repay the township more than $97,000 for financial mismanagement.
Then she and her husband went on a cruise.
Police and investigators can't keep anyone from traveling just because they are being investigated, Miller said. "There's no impediment to someone's travel, even if they're being investigated. Unless a charge is filed."
Heather Cohee "was not considered a flight risk, regardless," Miller added.
Cohee could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
The police interview
During a 22-minute state police interview on Feb. 24 at her Unionville home, Cohee said she worked for Dr. Kenneth Oglesby of the Foot and Ankle Center of Southern Indiana in 2003 or 2004, left for a time, and began working for him again from 2009 through 2011. She was an office manager.
"I told Heather the reason I was there was due to prescriptions in her and Todd's name, allegedly authorized by Dr. Oglesby, that he stated he did not write. She stated that was correct," detective Gretchen Morris wrote in the probable-cause affidavit on the case.
"Heather stated when she realized she was in trouble, she did not know where to go," the report reads. When the detective asked her to explain, Heather Cohee stated she started writing the prescriptions, but could not remember exactly when.
"I asked Heather if she wrote prescriptions for herself in hers and Todd's names, and she stated she did," according to the report.
She could not recall if she phoned in any prescriptions, as she had called in a lot of prescriptions working at the doctor's office.
But: "She stated if there were some, she did," the report said. Cohee told the detective she mostly called in for Lortab or Percocet and paid with cash or her debit card, according to the affidavit.
When the detective showed Cohee signature logs from a Kroger pharmacy -- one for a prescription on Feb. 23, 2011, and another on March 20, 2011 -- she agreed the signatures were hers. She agreed if they kept going through the prescriptions and signatures, she'd agree they were hers.
Detective Morris also told Cohee there was a prescription filled in her husband's name on Dec. 27, 2010. "Heather agreed that sounded about right." The detective revealed the submission of another prescription, this time, in Heather Cohee's name, on Feb. 23, 2011. Again, she said that sounded about right.
Cohee admitted she had a conversation with Oglesby about this situation, and "admitted to doing it."
With insurance paperwork in hand and her admission, Oglesby fired her that day.
The state police investigation of Cohee began in November 2011, when a member of the Indiana Board of Pharmacy, Eric Pearcy, told police he received a call in October 2011 from Oglesby.
"Dr. Oglesby stated he had terminated an employee, Heather Cohee, from his practice after discovering she was forging and calling in prescriptions for herself and her husband, Todd Cohee," according the affidavit. Oglesby had been contacted by health insurance provider Anthem about these prescriptions.
Oglesby stated neither he nor his staff had written any narcotic prescriptions for the Cohees since May 2008.
Heather Cohee had been using insurance and cash to pay for these prescriptions, according to the report.
Police received prescription information for the Cohees from various Kroger pharmacies.
"It is believed this is the pharmacy Heather filled the prescriptions by going to the walk-up area," the report reads. "HCR" was listed on all the signature logs for prescriptions in Todd Cohee's name.
Using video surveillance footage and signature logs, police confirmed Heather Cohee filled prescriptions at the walk-up window of the Kroger at 528 S. College Ave. Police also matched her driver's license number, which is written on prescriptions for controlled substances by pharmacists when they ask for identification.
At the end of her interview with state police, Cohee "stated she was so embarrassed and torn up about this. However, she was concerned about Todd because he was the innocent victim."
Cohee resigned from her elected position as Benton Township trustee the day before the State Board of Accounts released an audit covering Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2010.
The SBA mandated she repay the township $95,324.89 for financial mismanagement. Cohee must repay another $2,370 jointly with her daughter, Brittany Cohee, for salary overpayment while the younger Cohee served as township assistance clerk.
Combined, Cohee owes Benton Township $97,694.89, after a $100 credit already paid.
The bulk of the repayment, $78,209.31, comes from undocumented payments made to Cohee herself, husband Todd Cohee and daughter Brittany Cohee for cleaning, mowing, cemetery work, telephone reimbursement, storage and more.
The undocumented payments to Heather Cohee, Todd Cohee and Brittany Cohee totaled $9,198.44 in 2008; $27,049.24 in 2009 and $41,961.63 in 2010.
The audit shows Cohee collected $1,961.27 in rent for the three-year period, and also reimbursed herself for telephone service and charges. She also overpaid herself $2,250 in 2009, but paid $100 of that back.
Cohee is also liable for the audit itself to the tune of $13,004.31. An estimated 150 hours of extra work was spent on this audit, SBA deputy examiner Paul Joyce said, because of poor record keeping.
Cohee, a Democrat, was elected Benton Township trustee in November 2010 after being appointed to that post in January 2008 to fill out a term.
A copy of the audit report has been sent to the IRS and the Indiana Department of Revenue, as well as to the Indiana Attorney General's Office and the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office.
Benton Township's 2011 annual report was filed Feb. 29 and is not yet available for review.
Monroe County Sheriff Jim Kennedy said deputy sergeant Todd Cohee, upon returning from the cruise, asked the department for a few more days off. "I know he's not going to be at work the next several days," Kennedy said.
When asked if the sheriff's office will be conducting an investigation on Todd Cohee, Kennedy replied: "If I was doing an internal investigation at this point, it would be internal ... the only sensible way to conduct it." Internal investigations are confidential, he said.
Todd Cohee was not a specific focus in Heather Cohee's theft and prescription drug case. "He was not a subject of this investigation, no," Miller said.
Todd Cohee is not under investigation at this time according to ISP Sgt. Curt Durnil.
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