Cash, drugs stolen from former employer in ‘moment of weakness’

A pharmacist used a key to steal more than $4000 and drugs from a pharmacy safe, and was later found in possession of drugs including Ritalin and Oxycontin

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that a pharmacist went to the premises where he had been employed and stole money and prescription drugs, and after being convicted over the offences, did not notify the National Board of the charge or the conviction.

The state Health Ombudsman alleged that the pharmacist subsequently breached conditions placed on his employment by the National Board and that he knowingly provided incorrect information to the Pharmacy Council of NSW about his employment status.

The Tribunal heard that the man worked as a pharmacist at a store in suburban Brisbane until 2 May 2016, at which point his employment there finished.

“Prior to that, he had come into possession of a key to the pharmacy which had been issued to another employee,” the Tribunal noted.

“Eighteen days after his employment came to an end, he used that key to enter the pharmacy early one morning when it was closed, and stole $4,400 from the pharmacy safe, together with some prescription drugs and other items.

“When he left he locked up the pharmacy behind him.”

Two days later, police went to the pharmacist’s home and found a variety of prescription drugs.

These included five boxes of Oxycontin tablets, each containing 28 20mg tablets, and 37 Ritalin 10mg tablets.

There were also quantities of Aripiprazole 30mg, codeine 30mg, gliclazide 60mg and montelukast GH 10mg tablets, plus oseltamivir, phentermine, 40mg, diazepam 5mg, famciclovir 500mg, nitrazepam 5mg and Zydol SR200 Tramadol.

“There were ten boxes of Aripiprazole, seven boxes of Gliclazide and three boxes of Tramadol; the remainder were in quantities from one dose to 36 tablets,” the Tribunal noted.

“The respondent was charged with entering premises and committing an indictable offence, for which the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment, and twelve charges of unlawful possession of controlled or restricted drugs.”

When interviewed by police in July 2016, the pharmacist initially claimed he was not in the suburb that day, but when shown video footage of a vehicle in the suburb near the pharmacy, he then said he had been there to meet a friend as arranged by phone. Phone records did not support this claim.

The Tribunal heard that he brought along some S8 drugs to this interview to show them how a Webster pack worked, which the Tribunal noted was “an odd thing for an experienced pharmacist to do”.

The pharmacist admitted he had no lawful reason to be in possession of the S8 and S4 drugs and on 16 December 2016, he pleaded guilty to all thirteen charges in the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court.

He told the 2020 Tribunal hearing that his hours of work at the suburban pharmacy had been reduced and that he had committed to property offence “in a moment of weakness because of the difficult financial position he found himself in”.

He said he had not been paid for his last two weeks in the job (though the Tribunal did not know about the employer’s position on this claim).

He also said he was having difficulties in his personal life with his wife’s pregnancy, and his mother’s cancer, from which she passed away in August 2016.

The pharmacist was fined and placed on probation, and a restitution order was made for the $4,400 he had stolen.

However he did not tell the National Board that he had been charged with the property offence, or that he had been convicted on the thirteen charges.

In July 2016, he got a job in a NSW country town, and in August, the Pharmacy Council of NSW placed conditions on his registration including that he not work in a pharmacy as the pharmacist in charge, not work as a sole pharmacist, advise the Council in writing within seven days of changing employment, and not possess, supply, dispense, administer or manufacture S8 or S4D drugs.

When this took place in August, he lost his new job.

Between October 2016 and February 2017 he found work as a locum – as a sole pharmacist in charge of a store in a Queensland country town.

However, he did not advise the Pharmacy Council of NSW within the seven days specified, and while in that job dispensed S8s and S4Ds on hundreds of occasions.

In December 2016 – four days before his court appearance – he wrote to the Council asking to have the conditions removed, saying that he had not sought employment as a pharmacist since the conditions were imposed.

“That was false as he had then worked as a pharmacist in the Queensland country town on sixteen occasions,” the Tribunal noted.

“When confronted by his employer on 20 February 2017 about the conditions on his registration, he claimed that they had been in place only from the previous week, which he knew was false.”

The Pharmacy Council of NSW suspended his registration on 19 May 2017.

The Health Ombudsman alleged that the pharmacist was guilty of professional misconduct and of unprofessional conduct, suggesting that the pharmacist’s “persistence in dishonesty” indicated that the behaviour was “indicative of a character flaw rather than just an unfortunate lapse in judgement”.

However it did concede that he had pleaded guilty to the charges and cooperated in the Tribunal process.

The Tribunal found the pharmacist was still not a fit and proper person to be registered as a pharmacist and that it would be appropriate to cancel his registration.

It found that he had engaged in professional misconduct over the thirteen offences, the breach of conditions by working as he did in the Queensland country town, and over knowingly providing false, inaccurate or misleading information to the Pharmacy Council of NSW.

It also found that he had engaged in unprofessional conduct when he failed to notify the National Board about the charges and conviction.

The pharmacist was reprimanded and his registration cancelled. He is disqualified from applying for registration until May 2021, which means a period of four years altogether during which he could not practise.

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