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Rush's housekeeper levels charges

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh
Joseph Kaczmarek, Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A former housekeeper for Rush Limbaugh claims she supplied the conservative commentator with thousands of doses of painkillers, some of which may have come from a mom-and-pop pill mill busted earlier this year.

The housekeeper and her husband told their story to a Miami lawyer and then to the Palm Beach County state attorney's office after a promise of immunity. Then they sold the tale to The National Enquirer, which splashed the allegations across their front page in today's edition under the headline: "Rush Limbaugh Caught In Drug Ring."

Whether or not State Attorney Barry Krischer is interested in prosecuting Limbaugh isn't known. But prosecutors rarely pursue drug addicts unless they catch them with drugs. The Enquirer story stopped short of saying Limbaugh was caught red-handed.

Krischer's office would neither confirm nor deny the allegations Thursday.

Limbaugh, 52, wasn't talking either, but he was communicating with criminal defense attorney Roy Black of Miami, who had no comment.

Limbaugh, in a statement posted on his radio show's Web site, said:

"I am unaware of any investigation by any authorities involving me. No governmental representative has contacted me directly or indirectly. If my assistance is required in the future, I will, of course, cooperate fully."

Limbaugh wasn't on the air Thursday. Instead he gave the keynote speech at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Philadelphia. He made no mention of the drug allegations, but focused on his resignation as an ESPN sports analyst late Wednesday.

He gave up the job three days after saying on the sports network's "Sunday NFL Countdown" that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

The sources for the Enquirer's expose were former housekeeper Wilma Cline, 42, and her husband, David, 41, who claim they were Limbaugh's drug suppliers for four years and that he paid them tens of thousands of dollars. They said they sold him 11,900 tablets over six months in 2001.

The Enquirer story said the couple got nervous and contacted Edward Shohat, a noted Miami criminal defense lawyer. Late last year, Shohat brought them to Palm Beach County prosecutor James Martz.

Given immunity, the Clines became part of a drug probe that led to the arrest of Louis and Gloria Beshara in May. Authorities believe the Clines' illegal supply of painkillers came from the Besharas.

Investigators tracked 450,000 doses of the powerful narcotic hydrocodone that were dispensed at the Besharas' small pharmacy, World Health Association, in suburban Lake Worth. The Besharas have pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in hydrocodone, an anti-cough agent similar to morphine.

During a six-month undercover operation, law enforcement agents from the multi-agency task force also seized 73,000 narcotic tablets from the Besharas' home in Loxahatchee and from the pharmacy, and unearthed $806,000 in cash.

Louis Beshara's attorney, James Eisenberg, told The Post he knew of no connection between the Clines and the Besharas.

The Enquirer said the Clines backed up their claim of being Limbaugh's drug suppliers by providing e-mails Limbaugh allegedly sent them with such messages as, "You know how this stuff works ... the more you get used to, the more it takes."

The messages also mention "small blue babies," an apparent reference to the painkillers.

According to Wilma Cline's story, Limbaugh's descent into drug addiction happened after she told him that her husband was hurt in a fall from a ladder and that he was taking hydrocodone.

"To my astonishment, he said, 'Can you spare a couple of them?"' she told the Enquirer.

She said David Cline was impressed by who Limbaugh was and gave him 10 pills from his prescription.

The next day in the laundry room of Limbaugh's $24 million mansion, he asked his $370-a-week housekeeper for more pills, Wilma Cline told the tabloid. Soon, she said, the couple was supplying Limbaugh with 80 pills a month.

One of the prescription drugs Limbaugh is alleged to have abused has been linked to sudden hearing loss, an affliction that struck Limbaugh two years ago.

At the time, doctors said they were unsure of the exact cause of Limbaugh's hearing loss, but said that overuse of medication was not a factor.

Limbaugh would not reveal the cause of his deafness.

Coincidentally, the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, where Limbaugh sought treatment, discovered in 1999 that some of its patients with sudden hearing loss had overused a common painkiller that combines hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

The combination is sold under several brand names: Vicodin, Hydrocet, Norco and Lorcet. Lorcet is one of the prescriptions Wilma Cline said she procured for him.

When her husband's doctor stopped prescribing him painkillers, she said, Limbaugh got upset and yelled, "I don't know care how or what you do but you'd better — better! — get me some more."

With the help of an unidentified houseman, she said, she continued to supply Limbaugh, hiding the pills under his mattress so his wife wouldn't find them. Several months later, Limbaugh told her he would be undergoing drug rehabilitation and wouldn't need the drugs.

But one month later, Limbaugh called and asked if he could get an even more powerful painkiller: OxyContin, Wilma Cline told the Enquirer. She started to keep a log of her purchases, she said, and within the first 47 days she delivered 4,350 pills to Limbaugh.

She said Limbaugh because increasingly paranoid, one time groping her to see if she was wearing a recording device. He tried to kick his habit again at a New York hospital to no avail, she said.

In 2002, Wilma Cline said, a Palm Beach lawyer gave her a check for $100,000 and made her sign a promissory note, but said the "loan" would never be collected. Four months later, in November, the lawyer gave her a check for $100,000 and told her not to give Limbaugh more pills.

The attorney also told her to hand over the computer retaining Limbaugh's e-mails, Wilma Cline said, but she took the hard drive from another computer and smashed it in front of him. Then the Clines sought legal help.

Enquirer Editor-in-Chief David Perel declined to say if the Clines were paid for their story, but said the tabloid does pay for interviews. The Clines could not be reached.

David Cline was arrested for cocaine trafficking in 1982. He posted bond and then skipped, living as a fugitive under different names until surrendering in 1989. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

In April 2000, while he and his wife were allegedly supplying Limbaugh with drugs, Cline was arrested in Palm Beach County and charged with identity theft, having a counterfeit or stolen driver license and a false vehicle registration, possessing marijuana and resisting arrest. He wound up with a combined sentence of time served, 18 months probation, community service and court costs.

The injury that put a hydrocodone prescription into David Cline's hands happened in March 1998, while he was doing odd jobs at the Palm Beach home of Patricia Bradshaw. A pull-down attic ladder broke, sending him crashing to the floor. The Clines sued Bradshaw for $75,000, but Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga ruled against them in January 2001.

Under questioning by Bradshaw's attorney, Cline said he had made $40,000 to $50,000 a year and that he had not filed any income tax returns for the preceding five years. He also said he had used an alias to avoid paying child support for two children from a previous marriage.

Contributing: Thomas R. Collins, Larry Hobbs, Robert P. King and Tim O'Meila.