Coborn's Inc. will pay a $225,000 civil penalty for failing to keep adequate records and other safeguards after a pharmacist at one of its locations was able to steal opioids for personal use over multiple years.
As part of the settlement, announced Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis, the St. Cloud-based grocery-store chain admitted no wrongdoing and there was no determination of liability.
The federal Controlled Substances Act has strict rules on record keeping to prevent prescriptions from being illegally diverted. As part of the investigation, federal officials alleged that Coborn's pharmacy computerized-management system did not consistently identify and process cash prescriptions.
Because of that as well as poor oversight of the employee, hundreds of doses of controlled substances — including oxycodone and hydrocodone — went unaccounted for, officials claimed.
The pharmacist, whose name and location was not disclosed, pleaded guilty to fraud after an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency uncovered the scheme.
In an e-mailed statement, the company said the pharmacist was fired and that no other location was involved in the incident.
"We admitted no wrongdoing as part of this settlement and are pleased to have the matter closed," the statement said.
Federal agents charged that the pharmacist fabricated nine patient accounts and created numerous false prescriptions between 2011 and 2015 to obtain the opioids, which were mostly for personal use.
Coborn's notified authorities of its suspicions, and has since tightened the problematic record keeping that led to the fraud and theft, according to officials.
Coborn's Inc. is a 98-year-old employee-owned grocery retailer with more than 9,000 employees and 61 stores across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
It also operates Marketplace Foods, Cash Wise Foods and Hornbacher's grocery chains as well as stand-alone convenience, liquor and pharmacy locations.