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Mitchell pharmacist charged with stealing drugs

A Mitchell pharmacist has been accused of stealing prescription drugs from a local pharmacy.

Jim Buechler, 59, is charged with possession of a controlled substance by theft and grand theft for taking prescription pills from the Walgreens pharmacy. Buechler’s employment was terminated last week, said Emily Hartwig, a spokeswoman for Walgreens.

She said Walgreens had no further comment on the case, because it is an ongoing investigation.

The Mitchell Police Division was called to Walgreens on Jan. 23 for a report of an employee theft. Court documents state Walgreens noticed discrepancies in its drug count “several times over a long period of time.”

Detective Lt. Don Everson, of the Mitchell Police Division, said Walgreens noticed its drug count was off on Dec. 16. Through an internal investigation, Walgreens said some employees noticed strange behavior in Buechler.

Everson said Buechler stole various pills including zolpidem, a medication used to treat insomnia, and metoprolol, a medication used to treat high blood pressure. The total cost of all the pills was approximately $3,500. Everson said there was no indication Buechler was reselling the pills.

Zolpidem is a controlled substance — a drug defined by state law as having a high potential for abuse — but the other drugs are not.

The possession charge carries a maximum penalty upon conviction of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine.

Buechler is also charged with grand theft — because the value of the stolen items is more than $2,000 — which carries a maximum penalty upon conviction of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Buechler was arrested Jan. 23 and was released the same day on a personal recognizance bond, agreeing to appear at a future court date.

Randy Jones, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Pharmacy, said the board does not interfere with criminal investigations.

Based on the outcome of an investigation, the board could place restrictions on a pharmacist’s license.