Ripley Co. chief deputy sheriff charged with drug felonies

RIPLEY COUNTY, IN (FOX19) - The chief deputy sheriff in Ripley County faces felony drug charges, the Ripley County prosecutor's office announced Wednesday.

An Indiana State Police investigation found that Joe "David" Pippin acquired and filled prescriptions for hydrocodone from five separate health care providers at multiple pharmacies in less than a two-year period without disclosing that he was already currently prescribed hydrocodone.

Pippin was charged with six counts of acquiring a controlled substance by deceit, a class D felony.

Hydrocodone is a highly addictive well-known opiate-based drug of abuse.

Pippin's former sister-in-law alerted law enforcement about Pippin's alleged drug abuse.

Police said during a 55-day period in 2012, Pippin filled prescriptions for 494 hydrocodone pills. Police also said that in a 57-day period in 2013, Pippin filled prescriptions for 424 hydrocodone pills. In total, from Aug. 25, 2011, to July 12, 2013, Pippin filled prescriptions for 2,825 hydrocodone pills.

Multiple practitioners told investigators that if they had known Pippin was already prescribed hydrocodone they would not have prescribed him additional hydrocodone.

Pippin told investigators that he didn't view himself as a "doctor shopper."

He said that he did not want people knowing that he was taking hydrocodone and it was his "dirty little secret." Pippin told  investigators "obviously, I do have a problem" and referred to the interview as a "moment of clarity."

Pippin received hydrocodone from a nurse practitioner, two dentists and two doctors, according to court documents. Pippin used his medical insurance to purchase some hydrocodone but would also pay cash instead of submitting information to insurance.

Health care providers told state police "they felt Pippin provided deception, misrepresentation or concealment of material fact in an attempt to obtain a controlled substance, particularly hydrocodone, by fraud," court documents said.

Pippin told police that he needs to go to a somewhat low-key treatment facility that's not in the area. He also told police that he violated the law.

Ripley County Prosecutor Richard Hertel said prescription drug abuse has become an increasing issue in the county and the enforcement of prescription drug abuse is serious wherever it is discovered.

Pippin's personnel file contains no disciplinary actions since his affiliation began in 1995 with the sheriff's office. He has been chief deputy for 11 years.

"It is unfortunate this incident has come to light. I am somewhat shocked about this since I just drug tested myself, and all my employees including David, in September of this year through the health department," Ripley County Sheriff Thomas Grills said, noting that Pippin passed.

"I was saddened by that because I know Dave and that's going to be hard on him and hard on his family," explains Jerry Gilpin, a local business owner. "People look up to the police and the kids look up to the police so yeah they have to maintain a higher standard even though we're all human."

Pippin posted bond for $1,050 and was released. He has been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending an internal investigation and review.

Pippin is the second southeastern Indiana law enforcement official to be arrested this week.

Aurora Police Chief Bryan Fields, 42, of Aurora, was charged with one count of domestic battery and two counts of battery. All are class A misdemeanors that are punishable by a maximum of a year in prison. He was arrested Sunday.

Fields was arraigned Tuesday in Dearborn County Superior Court 1. He was released from the Dearborn County jail Tuesday on a $500 bond.

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