With a spike in prescription-drug abuse among young women, it's now commonplace for them to engage in sex to get drugs, a development illustrated by allegations in a federal criminal case.
Young women performed sexual acts hundreds of times in the last few years to get drugs from a Laurel County man, federal authorities have charged.
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On Wednesday, a federal grand jury indicted Roy Lacy Cobb, 55, of Keavy, on a charge that he illegally distributed oxycodone, the ingredient in the much-abused painkiller OxyContin, from June 2005 to May 2008 in Laurel, Knox and Whitley counties.
What sets Cobb's case apart from many are allegations about a byproduct of drug abuse that appears to have increased in recent years with the spike in abuse of prescription painkillers.
The epidemic of abuse seems to have hit young women in particular in the last decade, said David Mathews, director of adult services for Kentucky River Community Care, which provides substance-abuse treatment and other services in eight Eastern Kentucky counties.
With that, it's now typical to hear about women engaging in sex to get the pills they need to feed their addiction, he said.
"Men are taking advantage of that," Mathews said. "It's tragic."
At one time, men in substance-abuse treatment outnumbered women by far. These days, the numbers are about equal. Mathews said.
Many women are trapped in abusive relationships because of a man's ability to provide drugs, Mathews said.
Five witnesses said they told authorities that they had either gotten drugs from Cobb in return for sex or had heard about others who did, according to a sworn statement from Detective Richard Dalrymple, who is on a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force based in London.
Dalrymple said that Cobb's daughter Mary Cobb, who is charged with stealing drugs from a pharmacy in London, said during an interview in June that her father got drugs from a doctor in Tennessee and distributed them mostly to young women in exchange for sex.
Authorities began tracking down women who alleged they'd engaged in sex acts to get drugs from Cobb.
One told police that another woman, who later died, told her sometime in 2005 that she could get OxyContin pills from Cobb for sex.
The witness said she went to see Cobb with the other woman. On her first visit, the two women had sex at Cobb's direction and the witness got one pill, according to Dalrymple's statement.
The woman said that over the next two years, she visited Cobb about every other day. She paid cash for pills about 50 times, but most days she engaged in sex acts to get pills, she told Dalrymple.
Sometimes she had sex with other women, while at other times she had sex with Cobb or performed oral sex on him, the statement said.
Another woman said that when she first met Cobb in the summer of 2005, he gave her OxyContin free and took her shopping, but later, she had to start performing sex acts to get pills. She got an 80-milligram OxyContin every other day for months, the woman told authorities.
Yet another witness said Cobb bragged about giving pills to young women for sex. He showed her a hidden camera in the ceiling and claimed that he taped videos of himself with young women, Dalrymple said in the statement.
Dalrymple submitted the statement in seeking a warrant to arrest Cobb. Police arrested Cobb at his home in Laurel County Tuesday.
Cobb preyed on women in the grip of a powerful addiction, said Brad Mitchell, a Laurel County sheriff's detective who worked in the investigation.
"He used that pill as power over them," Mitchell said.
The investigation in the case is continuing. Cobb might be charged in state court as well as federal court, Mitchell said.
Cobb was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Derek Gordon, was not available for comment.
However, Cobb's daughter Christina Kinman, said the allegation that Cobb traded drugs for sex is not true.
"We think it's ridiculous," she said.
Kinman said her father has a 2-year-old daughter by a woman who has stirred up allegations against Cobb because of a dispute.
Kinman said Cobb once did home repairs, but now receives disability payments and takes heart and blood-pressure medication.
Cobb faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.