Last week’s robbery at a Krakow pharmacy demonstrates the desperate steps people addicted to prescription drugs will take, the chief of Franklin County’s drug task force said.

“This shines a bright light on the growing problem of opiate abuse,” said Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner.

A man got away with a large amount of Percocet pills in the Tuesday, Aug. 28, afternoon robbery at Hall’s Pharmacy on Highway A. The robber claimed to have a gun but no weapon was displayed.

Following an extensive investigation which included an anonymous tip, detectives questioned, then arrested Matthew J. Florence, 24, of Washington, last Thursday afternoon.

Florence later was charged with one count each of first-degree pharmacy robbery and theft of a controlled substance, both felonies.

Florence is being held in the county jail on a $150,000 cash-only bond.

The charges are prosecuted under a specific state statute related to pharmacy crimes, authorities said.

Grellner said Florence, who has no prior felony charges, would never have committed the robbery had he not become addicted to prescription opiates.

“One in four people who begin taking these drugs under a doctor’s prescription will become addicted,” Grellner said citing statistical data.

He said while Americans account for 10 percent of the world’s population, they account for 90 percent of the world’s opiate use.

“In 2010 alone, there was enough opiate drugs prescribed for every man, woman and child in the U.S. to have 20 pills,” Grellner explained.

The pharmaceutical industry has convinced doctors that these drugs are safe to prescribe when in fact they are highly addictive, Grellner said.

He said for an addict to stop using prescription opiates is extremely difficult which is why addicts will do things they normally wouldn’t in order to get the drugs.

“Withdrawal from these drugs won’t kill you, it just makes you want to die,” because of the extreme side effects, Grellner said.

The Investigation

After the robbery that occurred about 1:45 p.m. the first officers on the scene chased after the suspect who drove east on Country Club Road but they did not locate the car. Officers later learned that the suspect parked the car at a house off of Country Club Lane which runs from Country Club Road to Highway 47.

“We suspected right away that our suspect was from this area because he fled on Country Club Road. Someone from outside the area wouldn’t have used that road,” Grellner remarked.

Detectives then began developing a list of people who were getting that prescription drug and cross referenced those pharmacy records with arrest records, Grellner explained.

When the anonymous tip was called in, detectives were given a possible address, but not the suspect’s name.

That led investigators to an apartment in the 1000 block of East Fifth Street in Washington where they questioned and received consent to search the residence.

Inside, they found a tablet on which the note presented at the pharmacy had been written. When that was written it left an impression on the sheet below it which could be detected, Grellner said.

Florence, during questioning, admitted that he had committed the robbery and that he acted alone. He said he did not have a gun during the crime.

Investigators also obtained permission to search the home on Country Club Lane where they obtained additional evidence in the case, Grellner said.

Approximately half of the pills taken in the robbery were recovered.

No Second Suspect

Deputies initially received a report and description of a possible second suspect.

It turned out that a witness had seen one of the first officers, who was not in uniform, on the scene and called the sheriff’s office with that information.