Vernal couple files civil lawsuit against former cop who stole their medication
Two Vernal residents filed a civil lawsuit Monday against the city, the state and a former police officer who they allege used personal information from Utah's prescription drug database to harass them and steal their pain medication.
Candy Holmes and Russell Smithe allege former Vernal police Officer Ben M. Murray looked up information about them, including medical history and other private data, in the state's prescription drug database. He was able to learn when they filled prescriptions, for what drugs and in what quantities. Murray, wearing his police uniform and driving his police vehicle, then visited their home at least 30 times between January and July 2011 to conduct what he called a "pill check," according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
While at their homes, Murray discussed their medical conditions and other personal business and required them to produce their medications so he could count the pills. During that process, he would distract them and pocket pills.
The couple caught on to what was happening and set up a video camera to record Murray's next visits, which always coincided with when they refilled their prescriptions.
Murray was arrested in August 2011 and resigned from the police force. Murray apparently managed to take hundreds of Oxycontin and Percocet pills from the couple.
The complaint says Murray knew Holmes and Smithe had criminal histories, mental health issues, were uneducated and poor and thus were unlikely to question him or figure out that his actions were unlawful.
"He hoped that they would be too dumb to notice the pills were missing," the complaint says. "He counted on the fact that they would be too scared to stop him from coming into their homes and stealing their medication because of his status as law enforcement."
The court filing says that as a result of Murray's actions, Holmes and Smithe suffered physical pain, extreme shock, severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and "instilled in them a significant and continuing fear of law enforcement officers." It asks for damages of at least $2 million.
It says the city and the state failed to adequately supervise or have policies in place to stop Murray from carrying out his scheme and also did not adequately monitor use of the prescription medication database, which can be accessed by police as well as doctors and pharmacists.