Ex-Essentia nurse, fiance charged in pain pill scheme

A former Essentia Health System nurse practitioner is accused of fraudulently prescribing more than 11,000 pain pills to nine people -- including her fiance -- who were not her patients.

A former Essentia Health System nurse practitioner is accused of fraudulently prescribing more than 11,000 pain pills to nine people -- including her fiance -- who were not her patients.

Jill Renee Karkoska, 26, of Aurora is charged with first-degree sale of a controlled substance and three counts of procuring and possessing a controlled substance by fraud or deceit. The alleged acts took place between March and June of last year.

Christopher Lee Dian, 28, of St. Paul is charged with one count of aiding and abetting the sale of a controlled substance. Dian is identified in the criminal complaints as being engaged to Karkoska and sharing a son with her. Investigators with the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force said that Dian received more than 2,000 pain pills from Karkoska between Oct. 28, 2010, and June 17, 2011.

Karkoska has been summoned to make her first appearance in State District Court in Duluth on Aug. 7. Dian is summoned to appear on Aug. 9.

The defendants couldn't be reached for comment Friday.


Karkoska is represented by Minneapolis attorney Eric Nelson, who represented Amy Senser -- the wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser -- in her highly publicized hit-and-run case. Nelson was reached by phone Friday night but declined comment. He said he needed more time to review the charges.

An Essentia spokeswoman said that Karkoska worked for the health system for about nine months before leaving last July. By law, she does not have to be employed by a health-care provider to prescribe medications, but she does need to have a written prescribing agreement with a physician.

According to the criminal complaint charging Karkoska:

On June 6, 2011, a Target pharmacist called law enforcement to report a suspicious prescription presented by a customer. The customer had gone to Target on June 1 of last year with a prescription for 180 Percocet pain pills, less than a month after having a prescription for 120 Percocet pills filled there.

A member of Target pharmacy telephoned Karkoska, who said she authorized the early fill, but the store employee told investigators that it was suspicious and contrary to common practice.

A Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force investigator was provided prescriptions that Karkoska had allegedly written for the same customer for pain pills at Sam's Club, Shopko and Walgreens. There were no records at Essentia of that customer ever seeing Karkoska.

Investigators met with Karkoska's supervisors at Essentia on June 28, 2011. It was learned that as a hospitalist, Karkoska would see only patients admitted to the hospital and that the defendant had been writing prescriptions while she was on maternity leave and not working.

Investigators then interviewed Karkoska at her home. She was asked why she was writing prescriptions for nonpatients. "They were in pain and asked me to," the complaint alleges that she said. She acknowledged that she should not have been writing the prescriptions, the complaint said. When asked why she had been prescribing so many pills, she said: "I don't know if whoever I bring them to sells them or takes them all."


A woman, who told investigators she had been a friend of Karkoska's since growing up together on the Iron Range, said she had not been feeling well and was not sleeping. She said Karkoska never saw her in a hospital setting but provided prescriptions that she could fill for Lortab. She said she also picked up pills at Karkoska's residence.

The woman said she eventually learned that her insurance provider was being billed for prescriptions at Cub Foods and Walgreens without her permission. Investigators viewed surveillance video tapes from the dates that prescriptions were picked up and identified Karkoska as the person who picked up the pills at Cub Foods and Walgreens.

A man who worked with co-defendant Dian told investigators that he received prescriptions from Dian, who set them up through Karkoska.

Another woman told investigators that she saw Karkoska with a pad used to write prescriptions that she believed the defendant retrieved from her purse.

Another woman told investigators that Karkoska would provide a prescription and the woman would fill it and then return half of the pain pills to the defendant as a payment.

A man told investigators that he had gone to school with Karkoska. He injured his knee in March 2011 and Karkoska prescribed him Percocet for pain with the understanding that he would give a portion of each prescription to the defendant.

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