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Hearing delayed for Liberty care home drug theft suspects

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 4:26 a.m.

A preliminary hearing has been postponed again for three people accused of taking prescription drugs from patients at Liberty Manor Personal Care Home.

Glassport Magisterial District Judge Armand A. Martin granted the prosecution's request on Tuesday because crime lab results were not available.

The hearing has been moved to July 2 at 12:30 p.m.

The care home's administrator, William Garvin, 67, of Elizabeth Township, faces charges of drug possession, possession with intent to deliver, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy.

The facility's former supervisor, Lori Jarusinsky, 37, of McKeesport, and another employee, Mary Cherny, 26, of Liberty, are charged with drug possession, theft, criminal conspiracy and receiving stolen property.

Garvin's attorney, Michael Pribanic, said the prosecution had enough time to prepare for the case, and objected to the postponement.

“This whole thing with Mr. Garvin is absolutely absurd,” Pribanic told the judge.

Outside the courthouse, Pribanic said it's not unusual for crime lab results to be delayed.

“What is unusual is for a magistrate to postpone a case twice when the prosecution clearly has not acted diligently,” Pribanic said. “They've had these alleged drugs since March 3, and they've done nothing about it. That's more a problem about this case than the crime lab.”

An April 23 hearing was postponed because an officer was unavailable.

“Twice I've had a pharmacist here to testify that the controlled substance, as they allege, is not a controlled substance,” Pribanic said. “Even if it was, Mr. Garvin is an administrator of a personal care home. (He) has every right, and is authorized by state law, to possess and distribute those medications.”

The police investigation began on March 1 when Cherny reported to police that Jarusinsky stole clonazepam from a patient who had moved out of the care home on Feb. 25. Cherny alleged her supervisor took 96 pills and gave her 102 pills on Feb. 26.

Liberty police Officer Ray Johnson said Cherny is being charged because she waited four days to report the incident to police. Cherny surrendered to Johnson 21 tablets believed to be acetaminophen and hydrocodone bitartrate, and 10 pills believed to be Trazondone, according to the criminal complaint. She claimed those pills were given to her by Jarusinsky a few months prior.

Attorney Charles LoPresti, who represents Cherny, said his client has been unable to find work because of the allegations.

“When you have a case that gets blown into the media like this, unfortunately you try to get a job at a pizza shop and they see you on the monitor up there,” LoPresti said. “You get into a situation where nobody wants to hire you while a case is pending.”

Liberty police executed search warrants on March 3 at the care home and at Jarusinsky's McKeesport residence.

Johnson said police confiscated 96 clonazepam pills, 98 acetaminophen pills and 10 Vicodin pills from Jarusinsky's home and vehicle.

He said Jarusinsky claimed that, months before the search, Garvin gave her an ex-patient's acetaminophen pills, which had to be obtained by prescription because of the high, 650-milligram dosage.

Officers found 100 acetaminophen and other prescription pills scattered about, and 24 coffee cans of old needles, during a March 3 search of the care home. Another search the following day brought the total to more than 2,000 pills prescribed to former patients found in Garvin's office and a back room.

Approximately 200 more cans of old syringes were discovered, as well.

The state Department of Public Welfare shut down the care home on March 4 and relocated 29 residents to other facilities or to relatives' homes.

Former Liberty Manor residents or their relatives who have questions may call the state Department of Public Welfare at 877-401-8835.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965.

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