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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published April 05 2014

Agents say Grand Forks pharmacist stole, peddled pain pills

GRAND FORKS - A former pharmacist is accused of stealing more than 2,000 painkiller pills from the Grand Forks drugstore he managed and peddling them to others.

Investigators say Aaron Anderson, who turns 35 later this month, was manager of Thrifty White Drug from June to October last year.

Details of the case against him and his clients just became available Friday.

Agents of the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force made up of federal, state and local officers say they used a confidential informant to discover and document drug deals that started with Anderson pilfering pills from the pharmacy.

Anderson is charged with three felonies, two alleging delivery of hydrocodone, one alleging possession with intent to deliver the popular prescription drug. Each felony carries a top prison sentence of 20 years. He also faces a lesser felony of stealing a prescription.

His attorney, Alex Reichert, said Anderson no longer is a pharmacist, having surrendered his license recently to state officials because of the felony charges. “He’s working out in the oil fields,” Reichert said.

Anderson is slated to make an initial appearance April 28 on the charges.

That’s the same day one of his co-defendants, an insurance agent for Nodak Mutual in Grafton, is scheduled for a probable cause hearing in the case.

Joshua Peterka, 31, made an initial appearance Friday in state district court, charged with a felony of possessing hydrocodone with the intent to deliver it. He said he now lives in Grand Forks.

Another co-defendant, Chansy Wolff, 33, of Grand Forks, faces the same charge but it appears he has not yet been arrested.

According to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Anderson admitted during an Oct. 31 interview that he stole hydrocodone several times from the drugstore and sold 200 to 800 tablets or pills at a time to at least three people on at least five occasions.

He told investigators he sold the painkiller to Peterka three times, in one case charging $1,450 for 800 tablets. Different versions of the painkiller had tablets or pills containing different amounts of hydrocodone.

On Nov. 4, the confidential informant informed agents that Peterka wanted to meet at the Ground Round restaurant in Grand Forks “to pick up 200 tablets of hydrocodone.”

Instead, agents met Peterka, who denied he was there to buy the painkillers.

An agent said he asked Peterka how much cash he was carrying, got a “false” reply and then discovered $800 in cash on Peterka, the amount he had agreed to pay the confidential informant for the 200 pills.

Agents said Wolff also bought the painkillers from Anderson. In conversations recorded by investigators, Wolff said the pills would be “worth more down South.”

Investigators said Wolff told them he had a prescription for hydrocodone “for a surgery.”

Another man, a stockbroker in Alaska who grew up in Valley City, is also a client of Anderson, investigators said. They allege Anderson mailed 500 tablets of hydrocodone to the stockbroker, which prompted an investigation by postal inspectors.

The stockbroker, who has not been charged, told a reporter Friday he knew Anderson, who was also from Valley City. But he said he knew nothing about the investigation, had never heard of Peterka and denied receiving any painkillers from Anderson.