CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal authorities have charged a Beckley Police Department evidence technician with stealing prescription pills from the department's evidence locker.Gabriella Brown, 31, faces one count of acquiring oxycodone by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception and subterfuge, according to an information filed in U.S. District Court.An information is a charging document that generally indicates a defendant is willing to cooperate with prosecutors.In August, after Beckley police Chief Tim Deems announced that the drugs were stolen from the evidence room, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller said she was forced to dismiss drug cases going back 15 months. Previous convictions and guilty pleas also could be overturned, she said.
As the evidence technician, Brown was responsible for the department's evidence room. She went on medical leave around the time of the theft, Deems said."She had access to the evidence room through her position at the police department," Deems said.The chief said Brown has worked at the police department in some capacity for about six years. She was an evidence technician for about 15 months.
Deems said the department is conducting an internal investigation to determine how many pills Brown allegedly took from the evidence room. The department also is reviewing internal policies and procedures to prevent the same type of theft from occurring again.Deems said he does not believe anyone else participated in the theft."Our internal investigation of matters is not completed," he said. "Preliminarily speaking, at this point, there's no indication that anyone else is involved."Friday's charge comes as federal authorities continue to crack down on the illegal prescription drug market in Southern West Virginia.Last year, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced the Bluefield Pill Initiative, to target pill trafficking in Mercer, Wyoming and McDowell counties. The initiative, led by the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, is made up of the West Virginia State Police, sheriffs' departments in the three counties and the Bluefield and Princeton police departments."Prescription drug abuse damages continues to take a toll on communities all over Southern West Virginia," Goodwin said Friday. "I'm committed to doing everything possible to get this problem under control."Reach Zac Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5189.