Vancouver woman sentenced for pharmacy robbery

Vancouver resident, who became addicted to Oxycontin as a patient at pain clinic, gets

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Having become addicted to Oxycontin as a patient of a controversial pain clinic, a Vancouver woman robbed a pharmacy last June, then tried to rob another less than two hours later.

On Monday, Larae Corzine, 40, pleaded guilty to charges relating to both events and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

She was a patient at the Vancouver-area Payette Clinic, now called Walnut Grove Medical & Mental Health Clinic, which forfeited its ability to prescribe painkillers in March 2009 following a state and federal investigation that found practitioners were overprescribing opioids.

The enforcement action suddenly cut off hundreds of patients’ prescriptions for pain medications, triggering what some doctors later termed a public health crisis.

Corzine pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted robbery relating to an incident at the Vancouver Clinic pharmacy, 501 S.E. 172nd Ave., and second-degree robbery relating to a holdup at the Bi-Mart pharmacy, 11912 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. Both crimes occurred on June 18.

She also pleaded guilty to attempt to elude an officer because she fled from police following the Bi-Mart robbery, crashed her Ford Taurus and broke her foot.

She was still using a wheelchair Monday because of the injury.

“She was being prescribed giant dosages,” her attorney, Brian Walker, said in court. “It drove her to this crime.”

“She does not recognize herself,” Walker added to Clark County Superior Court Judge Roger Bennett. “This is simply not something she would do.”

Bennett imposed the sentence, which will include credit for the 230 days she’s spent in the Clark County Jail. He said he appreciated knowing about Corzine’s drug addiction, but that it wouldn’t soften the sentence.

“It gives us a motive, but not an excuse,” Bennett said.

Corzine was featured in an April 2009 article about the Payette Clinic on The Columbian’s front page, in which she told a reporter that her husband, Steve, was a patient there. She omitted the fact that she also had been a patient for three years.

She told the reporter that her husband suffered from reflex sympathetic dystrophy and was in pain, was not an addict, and needed help.

“The pain is 10 times worse than it’s ever been,” Corzine told The Columbian in 2009. “He’s vomiting and shaking. I’m surprised he hasn’t gone into seizures.”

Corzine was arrested following the Bi-Mart robbery in June. After she was taken to Southwest Washington Medical Center and later jailed, investigators linked Corzine to the other robbery attempt through surveillance video and witness identifications, according to court documents.

Deputy Prosecutor Alan Harvey said that during the Bi-Mart robbery, she told a clerk that “she’s going to shoot them in the head” if she didn’t receive Oxycontin.

She took off with an undisclosed number of pills.

An hour and a half before this robbery, Harvey said, Corzine tried to rob the Vancouver Clinic and a pharmacy clerk told police that she had a gun in her waistband.

Harvey said investigators couldn’t find more-concrete evidence on whether Corzine was armed, preventing him from pursuing a first-degree robbery charge at trial.

There was also evidence that Corzine might have been the bandit in two previous Bi-Mart robberies, Harvey said. But her defense attorney said surveillance video showed a person with different physical features.

The Payette Clinic drew controversy after the highly publicized December 2008 overdose death of an Oregon teenager was linked to Payette. The girl, Rachel Daggett, had been smoking an oxycodone pill originally prescribed to a Payette patient.

A wrongful death suit in her case is pending in Multnomah County Circuit Court. A medical malpractice suit with four plaintiffs also is pending in Clark County.

In spring 2009, hundreds of Payette patients, suddenly cut off from their opioid prescriptions, swarmed hospitals and urgent care centers, causing what some physicians called a public health crisis.

They were described as severely addicted or suffering extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.