Lake County Coroner Richard Keller pleaded guilty to two felony charges and immediately resigned from his job, according to the Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller.
Keller was charged with obstructing justice and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, Waller stated in a release today. After pleading guilty to both felony charges, Keller resigned his post as Lake County Coroner, effective immediately.
The investigation into Keller began in 2009. Waller stated that "the extensive investigation was conducted by the State's Attorneys office with the assistance of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (DPR), and the Department of Human Services, Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (DHS)."
The State's Attorneys Office began the investigation February 2009, looking into Keller in both his role as Lake County Coroner and his concurrent role as the director of Green Dragonfly Methadone Clinic in Waukegan.
In May 2009, subpoenas were issued for the records of Green Dragonfly Clinic, according to Waller. In September 2009, a search warrant was issued for all of the records of the clinic. Keller failed to turn over the requested documents required in the Grand Jury subpoena, leading to the obstruction of justice charge.
During the investigation, Keller was allegedly found to have prescribed methadone to patients and employees of the Green Dragonfly Clinic. Medical experts were consulted who determined that Keller failed to perform required medical examinations and mandatory testing before issuing the prescriptions.
Keller was placed on 24 months felony probation, and ordered to surrender his medical license and his DEA license to prescribe narcotic drugs.
For now, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran will oversee operations in the Coroner’s Office. County Board Chairman David Stolman had consulted with Curran about assuming these the duties of the coroner, in accordance with Illinois State Statue.
Curran will manage operations starting immediately, and continue until the County Board appoints a replacement that would serve the remainder of the term, which is November 2012, according to a release from the county.
“I’m ready and able to take on this role and perform these duties professionally and responsibly until a replacement is in place,” Curran said in a release.
Illinois law (10 ILCS 5/25-11) requires that the County Board Chairman shall appoint someone to fill the vacancy within 60 days with the advice and consent of the county board. Additionally, the appointee must be of the same political party of the vacating official. In this case, the appointee must be a Democrat.
“Due to these regrettable circumstances, we must take swift action," said Stolman. "Since the appointment process will take some time, the Sheriff will manage day-to-day operations to ensure continuity of services, and to protect the public’s interest.”
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