Jeff Fowler, a Broward County, Florida Health Department employee, was arrested Wednesday after he was accused of stealing HIV prescriptions from his work with the intention of trading them for oxycodone, news sources indicate. Fowler, 50, was booked into the Broward County Main Jail on charges of oxycodone trafficking. His bail bond was set at $150,000. It is not yet known whether Fowler has retained a private criminal defense lawyer.
Reports say Fowler worked for the Broward County Jail Linkage Project before his arrest. The Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS created the project in 1998 as a way to get HIV-positive inmates their prescriptions. Reports say Fowler worked with the program for six years, and his main duties included dispersing the medications to inmates within the Broward County Jail. The HIV prescriptions do not belong to the Health Department, but to the inmates themselves. Upon an inmate’s release, the department allows them to pick up their medicines from their offices.
Investigators, acting on a tip, began investigating Fowler two weeks prior to his arrest, reports say. During that time, the investigators setup taped interviews with Fowler using an undercover agent. Conversations held between Fowler and the agent purportedly revealed Fowler’s intention to steal HIV medications from his place of work. Later, as part of an alleged agreement, Fowler would trade those medications for 180 oxycodone pills.
According to reports, Fowler took 90 pills, which investigators identified as 60 Isentress tablets and 30 Truvada tablets, from the Linkage Project. Isentress is an oral pill that slows the spread of HIV through the body; its application may help patients suffering from HIV avoid HIV-related symptoms. Truvada also helps to reduce HIV symptoms by blocking a protein that the virus uses to infect the body. It is unclear if this is the first time an employee has been suspected of stealing medications from the department’s offices.
Investigators say Fowler was able to take the pills unnoticed by taking advantage of a simple loophole. When the jail releases an inmate who uses medication from the Project, they expect the inmate to come and pick up their pills. If they do not, the department moves the pills into storage. Fowler, authorities allege, took the medications from storage.
On Wednesday, investigators captured Fowler on surveillance footage as he drove around Oakland Park with the undercover agent, reports say. During that drive, Fowler is alleged to have alluded to his scheme, saying “…the thing is, people who are on medication, they don’t [care], when I go pick up their medication, I bring [the medicines] back to the office and they [the inmates] never come and claim them, and then I can’t find ’em.”
Following his arrest, the Broward County Health Department issued a release announcing that they plan to end Fowler’s employment at the department. During a court hearing, an assistant state attorney pressed for a high bail amount, and a judge concurred and set Fowler’s bail at $150,000. The outcome of proceedings remains to be seen.