Sherwood detectives bring down prescription drug ring
Sherwood detectives recently found themselves at the center of a sweeping investigation of a prescription drug fraud scam.
And it all started with a traffic stop.
By the time it was over, it involved pharmacies from Bend to Seaside, the FBI, an alleged threat against a detective's life and four arrests.
The central figure in the case, David Nickerson, 50, of Sherwood, was charged with prescription forgery, identity theft, possession of a forgery device and delivery of a controlled substance. Nickerson, who lives on Willamette Street, was involved in plea negotiations at press time.
Sherwood detectives said Nickerson used a word processing program on his computer, which was eventually seized, to duplicate a prescription script. Det. Jeff Fitzpatrick said he went so far as to glue scripts together so they appeared to be pulled off of a pad.
"They went to a great deal to make sure it looked legitimate," Fitzpatrick said.
The department had been watching Nickerson for years.
"It was just part of my day to go by his house four times a day," Fitzpatrick said.
In the past, he found a stolen car in the driveway, and there were often people on probation around the home, Fitzpatrick said. On one of his patrols through the area in early 2004, he saw someone driving a car that belonged to Nickerson without a seatbelt. The woman told Fitzpatrick that Nickerson was involved in a prescription scam, but never fully cooperated.
Still, detectives said the stop proved to be the tip of the iceberg.
In late 2004, a woman who detectives said was involved with Nickerson handed a fake script over to her ex-husband, who turned the script over to Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick initially found that similar forged scripts had been passed in Tigard, but further investigation revealed that the fake scripts were passed in pharmacies throughout Oregon by a group of people associated with Nickerson. Members of the group would use the name of someone - who may or may not have been involved -- who they knew had insurance information on file at the pharmacy. They often said they were picking the prescription up for the person, who was sick, and billed it to their insurance. The scripts looked authentic, but had some telltale signs: the word substitution was misspelled, and Oregon was abbreviated as "OQ" rather than OR.
Sherwood police seized Nickerson's computer, along with printing equipment and weapons, in April 2005, and Fitzpatrick found the script on a computer's hard drive, which was then sent to the FBI for computer forensics work.
Shortly after the seizure, Fitzpatrick said that an informant with the Tualatin Police Department said that Nickerson inquired about finding someone who could kill a Sherwood police officer. The case was handed over to the FBI and Nickerson was never charged, but Fitzpatrick eventually moved due to the threat.
In January, after the FBI finished with the computer forensics work, a grand jury in Washington County indicted Nickerson, along with three others; Paul W. Cole, Zachary E. Reiser and Lindsay E. Corbett.