BANGOR, Maine — The sentencing Tuesday of a Kenduskeag woman who robbed a Corinth pharmacy and stole more than 5,000 doses of oxycodone and Ritalin in January highlighted the effect prescription drug abuse is having on Penobscot County, according to District Attorney R. Christopher Almy.
Tanya Leigh Strout, 38, who was arrested April 25, pleaded guilty Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to robbery and stealing drugs and was sentenced to seven years in prison with all but four years suspended.
She was charged with the Jan. 4 robbery of Community Pharmacy, located inside Whitney’s Family Supermarket. Formerly known as Tradewinds Marketplace, the complex is located at 689 Main St. in Corinth.
“This was a fair sentence,” Almy said at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse following the sentence. “You need to bear in mind this was a serious offense. It was the biggest number of pills taken this year in a pharmacy robbery. This is a problem in this area and it has to be dealt with harshly. Drugs are a big factor in a lot of the cases we are seeing in our courts.”
He said it was important that a message be sent to others who rob pharmacies and steal drugs that they would face a similar sentence if they did what Strout did.
Defense attorney Stephen Smith of Bangor said the timing of her crime, as pharmacy robberies were increasing rapidly, had allowed the justice system to turn his client into the “poster child” for pharmacy robberies.
“The sentence today was far stiffer than she would have gotten six months ago,” he said. “If we would spend more money on the prevention of drug abuse, we’d be a lot better off as a society.”
Smith said pharmaceutical firms need to take a hard look at the formulas they use and find ways to make painkillers such as oxycodone less “user-friendly.” He also suggested that manufacturers pay a tax on the production of the drug to fund addiction treatment.
In addition to prison time, Superior Court Justice William Anderson sentenced Strout to three years of probation. He also ordered her to pay a $400 mandatory fine on the drug charge.
Strout told Anderson just before the judge imposed the sentence that she had been on bath salts when she committed the robbery after years of success in a methadone treatment program. She said that when she returned home and realized what she had done, she flushed all the pills down the toilet, but did not explain why she took bath salts.
Almy told the judge that none of the drugs from the robbery were recovered.
By pleading guilty, Strout admitted to presenting a note stating that she had a weapon and would shoot if the clerk went anywhere near a telephone and to taking about 5,000 pills that included more than 3,000 doses of oxycodone.
Although Strout said said she had a weapon, one was never displayed or found.
Strout was indicted on the charges in May by the Penobscot County grand jury. She pleaded not guilty to them on June 11.
Since her arrest, Strout has been at the Penobscot County Jail unable to make bail. Bail was set in April at $20,000 cash or $100,000 security.
Strout faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the robbery charge and up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 on the drug theft charge.