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Nurse arrested in drug fraud

An unemployed nurse was arrested on Monday after she was accused of forging her doctor's registration number to feed her addiction to painkillers.

During the investigation, Barbara Jean Crawford, 45, of the Shady Hills section of Pasco County, admitted that she signed a doctor's name and used the physician's Drug Enforcement Agency number for issuing prescriptions to obtain a supply of the habit-forming drug Percocet.

The forgeries allowed Crawford to obtain about 400 pills during a four-month period. The scheme ended in November when the Hernando County Sheriff's Office began its investigation.

Crawford, who once worked at Spring Hill Regional Hospital, turned herself in to the Hernando County Jail on Monday morning and was charged with four counts each of forgery, uttering a forged instrument, obtaining a controlled substance for fraud and criminal use of personal identification information.

Arrest reports state that on four occasions beginning in March 2004, Crawford forged a doctor's DEA number at the Eckerd drugstore in Spring Hill, each time obtaining 100 pills. The Eckerd store on Spring Hill Drive is now a CVS Pharmacy.

Crawford stole the prescription pad from her former employer, sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Donna Black said.

Given by the DEA as part of the Controlled Substances Act, a physician's number is required for the prescription of controlled substances. The sequence of the number is a way to track the drugs from their manufacturer directly to the patient.

Records show that the DEA number Crawford is accused of using belongs to Dr. Mary Li, who specializes in internal medicine at the New Hope Cancer Center on County Line Road. Crawford had at one point been a patient of Dr. Li, said Black.

But when a detective showed Dr. Li a copy of the prescription in November, she confirmed that it was a fake. An investigator from the DEA, who assisted in the investigation, said that no other person was authorized to use the number unless they worked in Li's office.

After her arrest, Crawford told authorities that she had written the prescription for herself because she was addicted to drugs. She was released from jail on Wednesday after posting $36,000 bail, records show.

Duane Bourne can be reached at (352) 754-6114 or