Former Pike County pharmacy manager pleads guilty in drug case

The former manager of a Pike County pharmacy has pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell or trade prescription drug samples.

Beverly Lockhart entered her plea Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Lexington.

Lockhart managed drug stores operated by her brother, pharmacist Ron Huffman. Huffman's Marrowbone Hometown Pharmacy pleaded guilty to the same charge as Lockhart.

Huffman and Lockhart were indicted with Thad R. Manning, an osteopathic physician whose office was next to Huffman's, according to court records.

A grand jury alleged that Manning gave Huffman and his employees free access to samples Manning received from drug companies, and that Huffman and Lockhart took part in selling them.

Huffman referred to Manning's storage room as "the candy store," prosecutors said in one court document.

In return, Manning and employees allegedly received prescriptions from Huffman without being charged co-payments. Manning's practice also got some drugs from the pharmacy free, and Huffman paid Manning's rent, the indictment charged.

The alleged conspiracy went on several years.

Manning also was charged with lying to the FBI, and Huffman and Lockhart were charged with submitting claims to be paid for providing drugs they didn't really dispense.

Manning has denied the charges and is awaiting trial.

Huffman committed suicide after he was indicted.

Wednesday's guilty plea is Lockhart's second conviction related to the pharmacy.

In the other, a jury convicted her last year for being part of a conspiracy in which a Houston doctor wrote prescriptions for 125,000 pills to 10 Pike County residents between September 2006 and July 2011.

That scheme involved a Pike County drug dealer named Dennis Varney, who paid for people to travel to Texas to get prescriptions from the doctor, Linda J. Roos.

Roos performed little or no physical examination before writing prescriptions for what U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar described as a "jaw-dropping" number of pills — more than 1,200 a month to one man at the peak of the conspiracy.

Roos admitted that she ignored clear signs that her Kentucky patients were amassing pills to sell.

Members of the drug ring filled the prescriptions at Huffman's pharmacy, according to court records.

Lockhart gave special treatment to members of the drug ring, opening the pharmacy outside regular business hours to serve them, according to testimony Thapar cited in a court document.

Lockhart told an employee to delete information from the computer about sales to people involved in the drug ring, and warned another that "what happens in the pharmacy stays in the pharmacy," according to testimony.

Varney and others pleaded guilty and testified against Lockhart.

Lockhart asked Thapar to strike down the jury's guilty verdict, arguing that there wasn't sufficient evidence that she committed federal crimes. The judge rejected that request last month.

Lockhart is to be sentenced in February.