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Published May 30 2012

Pharmacy thieves sentenced on federal charges

FARGO – Two Grand Forks men were each sentenced to one year and nine months in prison and ordered to pay $8,355 in restitution Wednesday after admitting to stealing thousands of prescription painkillers from Red River Valley pharmacies and distributing them in Minnesota and North Dakota.

James Vernon Hensrud, 21, and Joshua Ray Fonder, 28, must serve three years of supervised probation after their release. Fonder received credit for time served in jail since his arrest on Oct. 21.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers has said the two men and an unspecified number of others conspired to steal and distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and other drugs from more than half a dozen pharmacies last fall.

The investigation continues, Myers said Wednesday.

Fonder and Hensrud pleaded guilty in February in U.S. District Court in Fargo to conspiracy to burglarize a pharmacy and conspiracy to possess and distribute a controlled substance.

In recommending a two-year sentence, Myers called it a “particularly serious” case based on the number of burglaries and volume of pills taken. Adding to the seriousness was the fact that users of the types of narcotics stolen are known to eventually switch to heroin, a more dangerous drug, he said.

Judge Ralph Erickson agreed, saying the trafficking of opiates is “particularly concerning” and referring to reports of two recent area deaths from heroin overdoses.

“It’s a serious crime, and it’s an important, emerging problem in our community,” Erickson said.

In December, U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon launched an anti-heroin campaign that also aims to curb abuse of opiate-based drugs that officials say are a gateway to heroin.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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