It started with a simple tip to Crime Stoppers.
Soon after, local and federal investigators were looking into missing medication and suspicious purchases as part of a criminal probe aimed at the director of Wells County Emergency Medical Services.
Tina Crouse, 49, who the county EMS board suspended without pay this month, was in Wells County Jail late Tuesday afternoon on $380,000 bond.
Shes facing 76 Class D felony counts of theft, accused of using county money to buy quantities of a painkiller that never made it onto the ambulances run by Wells County EMS.
Crouse also allegedly used that same money to buy items for personal use, like gardening equipment, generators and mulch, according to a Wells Circuit Court probable cause affidavit.
The case against Crouse initially came to light when someone placed a call to Crime Stoppers in June.
That tipster said Crouse would use her Wells County EMS funds to buy a painkiller called Nubain but then keep the narcotic for herself.
She would tell anyone who asked about the drug that it was for the county EMS medical director, the tipster alleged. Crouse would say the medical director, a local doctor, was using it to treat his pregnant wife for fibromyalgia.
Days later, detectives from the Wells County Sheriffs Department and the Indiana State Police spoke with an agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The agent had also received an anonymous tip about the case, this one from a tipster who claimed someone with Wells County EMS was ordering drugs using improper information.
Investigators then began speaking with county EMS employees. According to the probable cause affidavit, information they received included:
The medical director Crouse allegedly bought the Nubain for never received any. Also, his pregnant wife is allergic to the drug.
Ambulances in the service have no need for Nubain because they are equipped with morphine and fentanyl, which are better suited for paramedics.
Crouse had asked for unlimited access to order narcotics and medical supplies for the EMS, a request that she was denied.
Crouse was described as behaving erratically for the past year, having missed appointments and training sessions.
Upon her suspension, none of the receipts for EMS purchases during 2012 could be found.
During multiple interviews with investigators, Crouse initially denied any wrongdoing, claiming that she ordered the Nubain in preparation for a national drug shortage.
She also claimed she gave the Nubain to the medical director, who continued to tell investigators he never received any of the narcotic from Crouse.
When investigators asked her about other items she bought with EMS money – a garden tiller and two generators – she said they were at her house but were for community use by other members of Wells County EMS and the fire department.
Crouse then allegedly told investigators she was taking medication that made her loopy and that on one occasion she fell and injured her back. She admitted to injecting herself with one vial of Nubain to help cope with the pain, according to the affidavit.
A day after this meeting, investigators were told that Crouse used Wells County EMS money to buy red mulch along with some hanging plants. A quick drive past EMS headquarters and a restaurant owned by Crouse turned up none of this.
But when detectives pulled into Crouses driveway, they spotted fresh red mulch all over the property.
When confronted by detectives, Crouse told them everything she bought was for the EMS building. She reiterated that she gave the Nubain to the medical director and repeated her story that she was stockpiling for a drug shortage.
She also said she suffered from memory loss due to the medication she was taking.
By this time I had grown weary of the lies being told by Ms. Crouse, an investigator wrote in the probable cause affidavit. I told Ms. Crouse she was just a common thief.
The investigators left with the intention of filing paperwork with the Wells County prosecutor.
The next day, Crouse dropped off a pickup truck at the EMS headquarters in Bluffton, according to the affidavit. In the bed of the truck were two generators, a garden tiller, paint, tile, grout, kitchen tile, drawer pulls and miscellaneous EMS equipment.
Dropping that equipment off at EMS headquarters, however, did not keep prosecutors from filing formal charges against Crouse and it didnt keep her out of jail.
She was arrested days later.