Dentist charged with illegally prescribing painkillers to friends and family
Prosecutors say a Tunkhannock dentist has for years prescribed increasing amounts of powerful painkillers to friends and family members without cause or documentation.
Dr. Sare M. Rhodes, 35, of 74 Lehman Ave., Dallas, was charged Friday with 10 counts of failure to keep records of prescribed drugs and 10 counts of prescribing oxycodone to a drug-dependent person. Investigators say Rhodes is a licensed dentist with an office at 161 North Bridge St., Tunkhannock.
According to a complaint filed by the state Attorney General's Office, investigators caught wind of Rhodes' alleged activities in February after pharmacists became concerned about her prescriptions.
Prosecutors say Nick Ziminski, a pharmacist at CVS Tunkhannock, contacted Henry Aftewicz, a pharmacist at Walgreens Pharmacy on North Township Boulevard in Pittston, to inquire about a patient because he was concerned she was getting Percocet as a maintenance drug from a dentist.
Aftewicz checked the Walgreens database, finding several of Rhodes' patients were using various pharmacies to obtain Percocet for pain management, which he thought was outside the scope of dentistry, the affidavit says.
Aftewicz contacted authorities with his findings Feb. 5, and Ziminski subsequently told investigators he was concerned Rhodes was using different pharmacies to avoid detection. Ziminski also reported that Rhodes' husband, Scott Kern, was regularly coming into his pharmacy to get oxycodone prescribed by his wife, the affidavit says.
Prosecutors say when Ziminski questioned Rhodes about the frequency and long-term use of the drug in her patients, the patients stopped coming to his pharmacy.
Pharmacists contacted during the investigation also expressed concern about the quantity and duration of the prescriptions Rhodes was writing, according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors say her husband had been getting monthly oxycodone prescriptions since January 2010, and his mother, Patricia Kern, had been getting them for 10 months. The dosage was also increasing over time, prosecutors say.
Rhodes' sister, Brianne Herron, and her husband, Tim Herron, have also gotten the drug since January 2012, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit listed several others who were allegedly getting prescriptions from Rhodes but whose relationships to Rhodes were not clear.
Court records indicate none of the patients has been charged.
Investigators raided Rhodes' dental office Feb. 13, finding records for only eight of the 10 purported patients, and those files lacked patient histories and lacked any record of drug prescriptions, according to the affidavit.
An expert medical consultant reviewed the documents, concluding Rhodes prescribed drugs without any underlying dental cause for the frequency and quantity of the drugs and that, while she had a right to treat her family members, she did not have the right to treat them for pain management, the affidavit says.
The expert also found the long-term drug prescriptions "very disturbing," saying she "far exceeded" rules regulating drug prescriptions for potentially abusive drugs.
Magisterial District Judge Carl Smith Jr. arraigned Rhodes and released her on her own recognizance with a preliminary hearing set for 9 a.m. Aug. 8.
Court records show Rhodes' only other criminal case in Pennsylvania was a drunken-driving charge in 2000.
Rhodes did not immediately return a message seeking comment at her dental practice Tuesday afternoon.