NEW PORT RICHEY — A veteran patrol deputy for the Pasco Sheriff's Office was arrested Thursday, accused of lying to doctors in order to feed his prescription pill addiction.
Larry Ray Sajko Jr., 35, of Hudson, has been with the agency since 1996. He began his career as a detention deputy and transferred to road patrol in 2010, covering northwest Pasco. Sheriff Chris Nocco said Sajko suffered a back injury while on the job, which led to his dependency on pain relief medication. The agency did not elaborate on what caused the deputy's injury. Sajko's arrest report says he was addicted to Oxycodone and Percocet. Last year, in an effort to get more pills, Sajko got prescriptions from doctors in Trinity and New Port Richey nine times without telling the doctors about both prescriptions, the report states. This is known in law enforcement as "doctor shopping."
A suspicious pharmacist contacted the Sheriff's Office in December, prompting an investigation. Sajko was suspended without pay on Dec. 30, and Nocco said the agency is in the process of terminating Sajko.
"We hold our members to a higher standard than anybody else," Nocco said.
Sajko is charged with withholding information from a doctor and was released from the Pasco jail Thursday on $2,000 bail.
He was unable to be reached Friday.
Nocco said it does not appear that Sajko was selling pills or that he was under the influence at work.
But Nocco said Sajko had a choice: When he realized he was addicted, he could have spoken with someone at agency.
"We would have gotten him help," Nocco said.
He said staffers are often reminded that mental health and substance abuse counseling is there for them if they need it.
"However, what Mr. Sajko decided to do was go doctor shopping," said Nocco, who since being appointed to the office last year has made fighting the prescription pill epidemic in Pasco County a focus of the agency. He said the situation is "sad" but that he is not going to tolerate such behavior in his office. He said he hopes Sajko will be convicted.
"We are going to treat him like any other criminal," Nocco said.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.