Pharmacist charged with stealing 20,000 pills


A pharmacist will make his first court appearance Tuesday to face four counts of theft by swindle in a scheme to steal drugs from the pharmacies where he worked, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced today.

Jeffrey Grothaus, 49, of Maple Grove was charged by complaint in March. He is accused of stealing 20,000 pills of five different drugs between May 1, 2015 and Aug. 2, 2016.

“The opioid crisis has opened everyone’s eyes to the abuse of prescription medications,” Freeman said. “While Mr. Grothaus says he used the stolen pills for his own addiction, we cannot have these powerful drugs leaking out into the community, which is why we are prosecuting a pharmacist. In a separate civil court, we are suing the manufacturers and distributors of opioids for flooding the market as well.”

According to the complaint, in July 2016, an internal investigation by HealthPartners at two of its Park Nicollet pharmacies found an unusually large amount of adjustments made to the inventory within the pharmacy management system at the stores. The stores, Carlson Pharmacy at 15111 Twelve Oaks Center Drive in Minnetonka and Wayzata Pharmacy at 250 North Central Ave. in Wayzata, had only one pharmacist in common when the adjustments occurred: Grothaus.

One example of how the scheme worked is from June 15, 2016. An adjustment out of the Wayzata Pharmacy of 500 tablets of Zolpidem was entered into the store’s computer. However, a search of all HealthPartners/Park Nicollet pharmacies failed to show those 500 pills turning up somewhere else, the complaint states.

The adjustment was made by a pharmacy tech’s computer station. However, video from the store showed Grothaus at that computer station making the adjustment, then returning to his work area, according to the complaint. Video also showed Grothaus taking an item, slipping it into his pocket, then removing it from his pocket and putting it into his work locker.

On Nov. 4, 2016, Grothaus signed a stipulation and consent order admitting he began stealing drugs in June or July of 2012. He mostly stole Zolpidem and Tramadol, according to the criminal complaint and he told investigators they were all for his personal use. 

Criminal complaint (PDF)