‘Ringleader’ sentenced for role in distributing hydrocodone

KEALAKEKUA — A 39-year-old woman will serve 90 days in jail for her role in the distribution of more than 3,700 hydrocodone pills over 10 months while a receptionist for a medical center.

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KEALAKEKUA — A 39-year-old woman will serve 90 days in jail for her role in the distribution of more than 3,700 hydrocodone pills over 10 months while a receptionist for a medical center.

And, if Kiana Tristaca Kakaniaupoo Perez Pratt meets the terms and conditions of her sentence handed down Wednesday by 3rd Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra, all of the charges she pleaded no contest to last month will be removed from her record within four years as part of a plea deal with the state.

That’s because Pratt received a deferred acceptance for her Feb. 10 pleas to second-degree promoting a dangerous drug; third-degree forgery; prohibited acts to obtain any controlled substance; and falsifying business records as part of a plea agreement. She received concurrent sentences for the charges; the strictest carried an 18-month jail sentence with all but 90 days suspended.

In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of first-degree promoting a dangerous drug; first-degree identity theft; and falsifying a business record.

“In all of this, I’ve been positive in what’s happened to me and I’ve persevered and got another job and I’m stilling trying to be the best that I can in the small community that I have that continuously judges you and it’s not easy to continue to live here on the island,” Pratt said before Ibarra handed down the sentence. “And, you know, Dr. (Patti) McGaff and I were good friends, and I’m very remorseful ‘cause I lost a good friend in this, not just a job — I could care less about that — she was my trusting and good friend, and I was emotionally attached to her, and she was my doctor.”

Prosecutors say Pratt was a “ringleader” who conspired with three other women, two of whom were previously sentenced and a third whose case is still being screened for charges, while working as a receptionist for Kona Family Health Center’s Waimea office to obtain hydrocodone by refilling 46 prescriptions for a total of 3,720 pills without authorization from March 17, 2015, to Jan. 12, 2016.

Pratt, according to court documents and prosecutors, forged or altered the prescriptions that the three women picked up the drugs at pharmacies and then provided a “share” or “cut” to Pratt.

In opening her sentencing statement, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kauanoe Jackson pointed to the amount of support Pratt had from her family and friends, among others, noting letters that she is “respectful,” “responsible” and “trustworthy;” with even the chief of police, her uncle, writing on her behalf, noting her “willingness to accept responsibility and extreme remorse and that no jail would serve justice in this case and would be more damaging.”

However, the prosecutor also noted that neither Pratt considers herself a criminal nor does her family see the criminal activities that took place in the case. Some of the letters blamed a lack of training and guidance while others expressed anguish that McGaff was still licensed and practicing.

“Her actions did in fact hurt others. The actions in this case show the exact opposite of what her family and friends touted her to be, which was responsible and trustworthy,” she said. “The evidence in this case shows that she betrayed the trust of a medical clinic, of a medical facility, these prescriptions were in fact handed out and were handed out to associates of Ms. Pratt.”

Prior to asking Ibarra to sentence Pratt to six months in jail, as contained in the plea agreement, Jackson added “in this nation, the Surgeon General has identified that opioid overdose and addiction is a crisis — it is not just another issue out there, it’s a crisis. Seventy-eight Americans die everyday because of this opioid overdose.

“The defendant fed into all of that as a drug dealer. People are blind right now to the idea of what a drug dealer looks like. In these current times, a drug dealer will look like a receptionist at a doctors facility, and that is what she was here,” she said.

Ibarra subsequently questioned why Pratt should receive more jail time than her counterparts, Caitlyn Auhoon and Jadelynn Nobriga, who each received 30 days in jail when sentenced earlier this year by 3rd Circuit Court Melvin Fujino. Jackson said it was because Pratt was the primary point of contact.

“The state believes that she is the dealer and the people she outsourced to were essentially victims to what the defendant did,” Jackson said.

Kwiat said his client does take responsibility for her actions, and that while Pratt contests certain aspects of police reports, she understood the evidence that would be presented at trial. He noted that Pratt has, “for the most part been a law-abiding citizen,” is currently employed, is in counseling and is “just really wants to move on with her life and take steps moving forward and having the opportunity to keep this off her record.”

He also requested that Ibarra forego a jail term in lieu of house arrest and community service.

Pratt, a single mother of two children, one of whom is younger than 18, also spoke during the hearing, telling the judge she knows the actions she committed “under the supervision of Dr. McGaff were against the law” but that she was seeking counseling and help for her medical situation.

She also asked Ibarra that he consider she serve her jail sentence in blocks over weekends so she can care for her children and mother.

Ibarra, before handing down the sentence, asked Pratt as to whether she considered herself a drug addict or drug dealer.

“Apparently, if I refilled prescriptions then I’m considered a drug dealer and at times I felt like was a drug addict and I was using more meds and went to doctors and asked them for it and then we sat down and we talked about it and I got help for whatever it was,” Pratt responded.

“The court concludes from the state’s evidence and the defendant’s limited response that she was acting as a dispenser for prescriptive drugs, opioid,” Ibarra said. “And, as stated, this country, the highest substance abuse drug is opioids. It’s not crystal meth. It’s not marijuana. It’s opioids. People are dying from overdose on opiates.”

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Pratt must report to jail at noon on May 1 to begin serving her sentence.

A message left with Kona Family Health Center seeking comment from the business, as well as McGaff was not returned.

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