BATH, Maine — A Topsham woman and her son pleaded guilty Wednesday in Sagadahoc County Superior Court to drug trafficking charges.
In July 2010, Lorraine Keating of 265 Foreside Road was arrested after a joint investigation by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department. She was charged with acquiring drugs by deception, a Class C felony. Two days later her son Desmond Fitzherbert, of the same address, was arrested on the same charge.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Bogue prosecuted the case. She said Wednesday that Keating pleaded guilty to one count of acquiring drugs by deception (Class C) and two counts of unlawful trafficking in schedule W drugs (Class B).
Judge Andrew Horton sentenced Keating to four years in prison with all but nine months suspended and two years of probation. Each count carries a $400 fine.
Bogue said Fitzherbert pleaded guilty to one count of acquiring drugs by deception (Class C) and one count of unlawful trafficking of schedule W drugs (Class B). He was sentenced to serve three years in a Maine Department of Corrections facility, with all but four months suspended, and two years of probation. Each count carries a $400 fine.
Bogue is a drug prosecutor assigned to the midcoast region. She prosecutes drug felonies in Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties within the criminal division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
Bogue said Wednesday that the case against Keating and Fitzherbert never went before a grand jury. The defendants wanted to resolve the case, and as is their right, waived the grand jury process. The case has been pending for a long time, which Bogue said the defendants and prosecution used to agree on the plea and sentencing.
According to information Bogue presented to support the conviction, the crimes occurred while Keating was employed as an office manager at Dr. Alice Franklin’s office in Bath. In that position of trust, she stole a prescription pad and used it to write out prescriptions in the name of her son Desmond Fitzherbert.
He bought oxycodone at a pharmacy in Topsham, then supplied the pills to a source they knew could sell them. Keating ended up making about $1,000 per prescription, Bogue said.
The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency was informed about this operation, Bogue said, because the parent of a woman dating Fitzherbert told police they suspected Keating was using her position in a doctor’s office in Bath to sell pills.
MDEA investigators procured a copy of the prescription, then interviewed the doctor involved and the office staff. That investigation led to the arrest of Keating and Fitzherbert, who later confessed to the crimes.
“They did what they were supposed to do, and hopefully we stopped that conduct,” Bogue said.
At the time of Keating’s and Fitzherbert’s arrests, Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said the pair’s drug trafficking had gone on for at least six months.
Brunswick attorney Michael Turndorf represented Keating and Fitzherbert since shortly after their arrest.
“I’d certainly be happy to say that Miss Keating and Mr. Fitzherbert received a very favorable outcome to the case, that none of the charges were presented to the grand jury, and that the outcome is driven in part by the fact that both responsible parties took responsibility from the onset,” he said Wednesday.
Turndorf said the outcome was also driven in part by the fact that his clients had been on bail for nearly a year while several grand jury sessions were bypassed.
“Their behavior while on bail as I understand was outstanding, so that is information that was helpful, obviously, to Miss Keating and Mr. Fitzherbert, and information that the assistant attorney general took into consideration, and rightly so,” he said.
“It’s an everyday occurrence that we hear about people and drugs, it’s a pervasive problem,” Turndorf said. “This case is somewhat unique. People have received much stiffer sentences for lesser conduct, and the fact is, I think Lorraine Keating and Desmond [Fitzherbert] both stepped up to the plate and they remain there ready to take whatever it is they get.”
Noting that Horton could have rejected the sentencing agreement worked out with Bogue, Turndorf said, “I think it was a very fair resolution. And under other circumstances, they might not have been so lucky.”
After the arrest of Keating and Fitzherbert in July 2010, Merry said the arrests highlight flaws in the medical profession’s management of powerful painkillers, and he asked how someone who doesn’t have a medical condition requiring a strong pain medication is able to procure prescriptions at a pharmacy.
Brenda Kielty, special assistant to Maine Attorney General William Schneider, said Wednesday that an Oct. 25 summit on prescription drug abuse will bring together as many as 150 stakeholders at Point Lookout in Northport to brainstorm on this important issue for the state. This is a focus for Schneider, she said.
“The data supports labeling this as a very serious, growing problem for the people of Maine and it’s not something that can be ignored anymore,” Kielty said.
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