A former Pleasant Grove police captain and head of the Utah County Narcotics Enforcement Team has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to obtaining prescription drugs by fraud.
Michael Blackhurst, 55, told U.S. District Magistrate Ronald Boyce on Monday that he was pleading guilty "because I did it." Blackhurst, a 30-year police veteran, resigned from the Pleasant Grove Police Department in April a few days before a grand jury indicted him.He told Boyce he used Pleasant Grove city letterhead to write prescriptions for pain killers to a local pharmacy. From July 1996 to April 1999 he purchased more than 30,000 units of Hydrocodone, Demerol and Oxycdone, court records say.
Blackhurst declined to explain why he purchased the drugs and refused to comment Monday. His attorney said he also could not comment and that the reasons Blackhurst purchased the drugs would be considered in his presentence evaluation.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Rich McKelvie would only say that the drugs were not purchased to be sold.
"There's no indication that he was distributing or selling these in any kind of a network," McKelvie said.
When Blackhurst resigned, Pleasant Grove Police Chief Tom Paul told the Deseret News that Blackhurst purchased the drugs for a relative who was suffering from health problems.
The Drug Enforcement Agency began investigating Blackhurst after a pharmacist became suspicious of the number of painkillers Blackhurst was buying with cash and his own personal credit card.
In the letters presented to the pharmacy, Blackhurst indicated the drugs were for use in investigations and that they would be destroyed once the police work was complete. Over a three-year period he used the letters to make about 80 purchases.
Blackhurst was scheduled for trial Wednesday but instead accepted a plea bargain offered by federal prosecutors. In exchange for Blackhurst pleading guilty, McKelvie said prosecutors will recommend probation if a presentence report does not recommend prison. The maximum penalty for the offense is four years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He'll be sentenced Sept. 2 by U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell.
"I think he'll likely get probation because this kind of offense just doesn't carry that high of a penalty," McKelvie said.
For many years Blackhurst led Utah County's coordinated drug enforcement efforts until the Narcotics Enforcement Team merged with the Gang Project to become the Major Crimes Task Force. He worked with DEA agents in many of his cases.