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Charges: Former Washington County Deputy Stole Prescription Drugs from Drop-Off Container

An Oakdale man who recently resigned from his post as a Washington County Sheriff's deputy now faces several drug charges.

A former Washington County deputy has been charged with felony drug theft and faces other drug charges after allegedly stealing from a county prescription drug drop-off box. 

Ricky Harry Gruber, 43, of Oakdale, was charged Wednesday, Feb. 27, with felony drug possession, two counts of felony theft, misconduct of a public officer and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

The prescription drug drop-off boxes are meant for the public to dispose of unwanted or unused medications in a safe manner. 

"I'm extremely disappointed and embarrassed as an organization, but this also highlights the problem that is out there," Sheriff Bill Hutton told the Pioneer Press. "We've already taken measures to tighten things up and look at things differently. But we also have to realize, we have very responsible, very respectable people who are in charge of those collection bins. We take that very seriously. Obviously, this person took a different path."

On Jan. 25, a deputy noticed one of the drug drop-off boxes was ajar and there was no forced entry, according to the criminal complaint. One of the drug drums was missing from the box. On Jan. 28 the same deputy took a spare drum from storage to put in the drop-off box and found that it was locked once again with a half-full drum. There had been no public activity with the drop-off box since Jan. 25. 

The deputy reported his findings to his superiors and security cameras were installed near the drug cabinet. 

On Feb. 6, one of the security cameras for the Washington County Sheriff's Office drop-off box showed Gruber removing items from the drop-off box, according to the complaint. After seeing this, officials installed additional cameras. 

On Feb. 12, a live feed camera showed Gruber opening the drop-off box and taking drugs into his office. Sheriff's deputies arrested Gruber at the scene and took him in for questioning. 

Only select personnel is allowed access to the drop-off boxes. Gruber was never authorized to have a key to the drop-off box, the complaint states.

Related: County Starts Unused Drug Disposal Program

County's Unused Medication Drop Box Now in Use

The complaint also says Gruber admitted to stealing drugs from the bin for personal use. He said he had been taking drugs for the past few months and had been in the drug bins more than six times. 

He also said he was taking the drugs for his medical conditions, according to the complaint. 

Deputies searched Gruber's office and his truck and found almost 300 prescription pills. 

Gruber, who worked on special projects, resigned from his post earlier this month. He was hired as a deputy in 1997 and served on the narcotics team from 2004-09, according to the Pioneer Press.

Prescription drug drop-off boxes are located at the Sheriff's Office, the Washington County Service Center in Cottage Grove and the Washington County Headwaters Service Center in Forest Lake. 

Gruber's first appearance in court is set for May 15.

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