NO.chalmettepharmacyraid.042017_02.JPG

The Drug Enforcement Administration raids Wilkinson Family Pharmacy after discovering the pharmacy prescribes an above average amount of opiates in the Louisiana, in Chalmette, La., Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Advocate Staff photo by SOPHIA GERMER

Federal agents' raid on a well-known pharmacy in Chalmette earlier this year has resulted in the arrest of a woman accused of going there repeatedly to fill fraudulent prescriptions for painkillers, according to recently filed federal court documents.

In addition, a Metairie doctor's office manager has admitted forging the prescriptions in question. 

The records help explain the Drug Enforcement Administration's raid in April on the Wilkinson Family Pharmacy at 3001 Paris Road.

Neither of the two pharmacists registered to work there — owner Keith Wilkinson and Joshua Norrell — has been charged in connection with an investigation coming amid increased efforts to crack down on the illegal sale of painkillers as well as heightened national concern over the opioid overdose epidemic.

However, the business surrendered its permit to operate, and roughly $1 million in cash from a pharmacy bank account has been seized for forfeiture since April.

Court records strongly suggest authorities are receiving cooperation from doctor's office manager Jennifer Bordelon and former regular customer Kim DeGruy as they investigate the pharmacy.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed last month, the DEA received a tip in June 2015 that DeGruy was getting prescriptions for potent drugs filled at Wilkinson pharmacy that supposedly were issued by Causeway Interventional Medicine's Dr. Robert Lesser in the name of Arthemise Riley.

Norrell later confirmed that DeGruy dropped off the prescriptions and picked them up once they were filled, according to the complaint, signed by DEA Task Force Agent Patricia Childress.

But, the complaint said, Riley had lost her identification months earlier and had never visited either Lesser or the Wilkinson pharmacy, which developed a reputation as one of the highest-prescribing pharmacies in the state for opiates. 

Riley did not know DeGruy or authorize anyone to pick up medicine in her name, the feds said.

After he was shown the prescriptions that had been filled out for Riley, Lesser dismissed them as forgeries he had not authorized, according to the complaint.

Bordelon, the office manager for Lesser's Causeway pain clinic, eventually admitted that she had given the fake prescriptions to DeGruy, whose father was one of the doctor's patients.

Allegedly, Bordelon provided the prescriptions between April 2015 and May 2016 in the names of seven different people. She would steal prescription forms from Lesser; write out orders for between 90 and 180 doses of drugs commonly sold as Oxycontin, Percocet and Soma; and forge the doctor's signature on the documents, the feds said.

Acting U.S. Attorney Duane Evans' office charged Bordelon in May with conspiring to illegally distribute prescription drugs.

A subsequent court filing described ongoing plea negotiations between her attorney, Tanya Picou Faia, and prosecutors. No terms have been publicly disclosed, but the complaint against DeGruy described Bordelon as "a cooperating defendant in this investigation," which indicates a plea deal may be in the works. 

As for DeGruy, federal prosecutors have not followed up the DEA's criminal complaint against her with either a grand jury indictment or a bill of information.

However, prosecutors asked to delay a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday to allow negotiations between Evans' office and DeGruy's attorney, Rachel Yazbeck, to continue.

The request did not mention cooperation or a plea deal but suggested that both are on the table, explaining, "All counsel are attempting to resolve the matter promptly and without the need of a trial or presentation to a grand jury."

The Wilkinson Family Pharmacy enjoyed considerable popularity in St. Bernard Parish.

However, following the raid in the spring, the pharmacy voluntarily surrendered its permit to operate as well as its license to dispense prescription drugs, state records show. Wilkinson also voluntarily surrendered his state license to work as a pharmacist. All of the credentials are suspended indefinitely, records say.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

(504) 636-7433