Judge tosses Island Drug lawsuit, says law enforcement activity at pharmacy justified

Larry Heine was the owner of the former Island Drug at the Town Center mall.

Eagle staff

Larry Heine was the owner of the former Island Drug at the Town Center mall.

A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit filed by the owners of a now-defunct Marco Island drugstore, ruling the police department and its former chief did not harass the store and customers in an attempt to shut it down.

U.S. District Court Judge Sheri Polster-Chappell’s ruling ends the 2010 lawsuit filed by Larry and Susan Heine and averts a trial scheduled for next month. The Heines retired in July, closed the 43-year-old store and sold the customer accounts to CVS.

“The Marco Island Police Department had a valid purpose in halting or deterring criminal conduct,” Chappell wrote in her 16-page ruling. “The Marco Island Police Department was there to address reported criminal activity and perhaps deter criminal activity. ... An increase in drugs, loitering, medical issues, and thefts are all viable issues to reasonably concern anyone, let alone law enforcement.”

The judge ruled the focus on customers by Marco Police and its then-chief Thom Carr wasn’t irrational, arbitrary or so conscience-shocking that it violated the Heines’ constitutional rights.

In granting the defendants’ summary judgment motion, the judge determined no “material dispute” exists for a jury to decide and canceled a pretrial conference set for Monday.

Attorneys representing police and Carr, declined to comment. The Heines’ lawyer, Michael McDonnell, could not be reached for comment on whether he will appeal.

The Heines sued in June 2010, accusing police and Carr of civil rights violations that included harassment, stopping and searching customers, warning them not to return and asking the Heines not to fill East Coast prescriptions. The Heines contended that damaged their reputation and they lost customers and profits.

After years of dry legal arguments, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in November that revealed what prompted the police presence at Marco Town Center.

The motion, depositions by employees and neighboring store owners and an expert’s report said the Heines knowingly filled prescriptions for dealers and addicts that were prescribed by pill mill pain clinics and doctors who had pending complaints, were shut down or eventually lost their licenses.

Employees and shop owners described gangs of customers who came in carloads, bumped into shelves, were high on drugs, incoherent, nodded off and sold prescriptions outside. They said addicts flocked there because Island Drug didn’t have a computer system to track fraud like bigger pharmacies.

The motion said Island Drug sold more than 1 million oxycodone pills in 2010, well above the national store average of 69,000 pills, and doubled its annual income in 2009 and 2010, reaching nearly $1 million by attracting customers statewide, nearly all cash-paying.

The suspicious practices attracted the attention of pharmaceutical companies, which all eventually stopped supplying the store.

Last month, the defendants asked the judge to sanction the Heines for destroying their computers and records after being asked to preserve all evidence.

The judge agreed police didn’t cause the Heines to go out of business. Pointing to the evidence, she said pharmaceutical suppliers stopped providing drugs. She also noted the Heines admitted they retired due to “longtime pressure” by their children and that Larry Heine admitted he could work as a pharmacist again if he wanted to.

“This evidence directly contradicts any notion that defendants deprived the plaintiffs of their rights to a livelihood,” the judge ruled. “There is no evidence that defendants harassed plaintiffs.”

© 2014 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 3

exasperation writes:

Well, well, well, the real truth comes out. I guess it was a case of blame someone else for your failure rather than admit you were wrong. This is another case of not taking responsibility for your actions. While the nice Mr. Heines conducted his "business" he contributed to the on-going epidemic of illegal drug abuse and quite possibily to the deaths of some users. Maybe the families of those "victims" have a valid lawsuit against him. Just another case of the "public" not knowing the truth and assuming that the police are doing something wrong. Not seeing a lot of blogs about this now like there were when the suit was first announced in 2010. Then "they" were real quick to blame the police for their (Heines)downfall.

RayPray writes:

in response to exasperation:

Well, well, well, the real truth comes out. I guess it was a case of blame someone else for your failure rather than admit you were wrong. This is another case of not taking responsibility for your actions. While the nice Mr. Heines conducted his "business" he contributed to the on-going epidemic of illegal drug abuse and quite possibily to the deaths of some users. Maybe the families of those "victims" have a valid lawsuit against him. Just another case of the "public" not knowing the truth and assuming that the police are doing something wrong. Not seeing a lot of blogs about this now like there were when the suit was first announced in 2010. Then "they" were real quick to blame the police for their (Heines)downfall.

"contributed to the on-going epidemic of illegal drug abuse and quite possibily to the deaths of some users."

>>> No, whatever misery & death stems from our governments' never ending and ever expanding Orwellian 'The War on Drugs', deemed essential to get conniving politicians reelected & keep cops conveniently fat off the fruit of Civil Forfeiture.

"Just another case of the "public" not knowing the truth and assuming that the police are doing something wrong."

>>> Generally a productive assumption to start with.

>>> Funny you should quote mark the word 'public' like it doesn't include you?

>>> Or maybe no big surprise. Just another of our 20-year & out overpaid boys in blue?

Northerner writes:

Well said, Ex!! Excellent job MIPD!!!
Heines=lowlife, scuzz bag, drug dealers. I hope u both rot in prison.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features