By Ed Runyan
Kenneth Overholt Jr., 58, a former Champion Township trustee and former owner of Overholt’s Champion Pharmacy, was sentenced Thursday to 18 months of house arrest for illegally filling 100 prescriptions for dangerous drugs.
Overholt, of Pierce Road, was a township trustee from 1982 to 1997, and his pharmacy was one of the community’s best-known businesses for decades.
But investigators discovered that he and two of his pharmacists were filling prescriptions for a variety of dangerous drugs for a Middlefield pain doctor that greatly exceeded what would be considered normal. Hundreds of improper prescriptions were filled at the pharmacy in 2007 and 2008, state investigators said.
By 2009, Overholt had turned over the business to new management, and in January 2010, he sold it.
In March 2011, Overholt pleaded guilty in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to five counts of aggravated drug trafficking and agreed to an 18-month prison term, but a chronic condition that involved a lung transplant meant he was too sick to report to prison.
The late Judge John M. Stuard, who handled the case until his retirement at the end of 2012, had periodic hearings in the case, but Overholt’s doctor said Overholt was still too sick for prison.
Judge Ronald Rice, who inherited the case when he assumed the bench in January, decided not to wait any longer.
Mike Burnett, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, said Overholt’s doctor recently wrote that because of Overholt’s compromised immune system because of the transplant and the level of sanitation in a prison, sending Overholt there would be a “death sentence.”
While on house arrest, Overholt will be monitored by electronic ankle bracelet, and he is not allowed to leave home for anything but medical appointments, such as twice-monthly doctor visits and three-times-weekly therapy sessions.
Judge Rice also placed Overholt on five years’ probation and ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine by Sept. 1. Overholt earlier forfeited $100,000 in drug proceeds to the state. He surrendered his pharmacy license in 2010.
According to documents from the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, Overholt filled prescriptions for drugs including painkillers for about 15 patients of Dr. Peter S. Franklin of Geauga County, who ran a family practice and pain-management clinic in Middlefield until he was killed in August 2009 by his wife, Sandra. She was later convicted of the murder.
Police and state narcotics agents raided Dr. Franklin’s office in Middlefield in February 2009 after they received complaints from patients or their families about addictive drugs.
Burnett has said that Overholt’s pharmacy filled prescriptions for dosages as high as 10 times the normal daily amount. Dr. Franklin required that the prescriptions only be filled at Overholt’s.
Overholt spoke to Judge Rice during the sentencing, but only to discuss the nature of his illness. In addition to saying he had a lung transplant four years ago, he said he has skin cancer.
The two other pharmacists are Robert J. Gaves, 67, of Orchard Street, Newton Falls, and Andrea Luchette, 41, of Yankee Run Drive, Masury. Both pleaded guilty in 2011 to five counts each of complicity to deception to obtain a dangerous drug.
Both were sentenced to five years’ probation, and both had their pharmacy license revoked in 2011.