Friday, July 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Pa. woman sentenced for tainting Children's Advil with muscle relaxers

A Wilkes-Barre woman was sentenced to 26 months in jail on Tuesday for filling a bottle of Children’s Advil with prescription muscle relaxers and returning it to store shelves.

Yolanda Holman, 35, has been ordered to surrender June 16 to begin serving her federal prison term.

Holman bought a bottle of Children’s Advil from a Rite Aid store on Aug. 23, 2013. She emptied out the Advil, refilled the bottle with prescription muscle relaxers and iron pills, re-glued the box shut and sent her daughter to return it to a different Rite Aid store for a $7-refund, court documents state.

A customer who purchased the tainted medication alerted Rite Aid employees, who in turn notified law enforcement. All of the tainted medicine was recovered or destroyed, and it presented no danger to the public, officials said.

Holman pleaded guilty Feb. 4 to information charging her with one felony count of tampering with a consumer product, which carries a maximum possible penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

But, in a sentencing memorandum arguing for leniency, Holman’s defense attorney said her client didn’t intend to cause harm by tampering with the medication.

“She wanted the pills but did not want to pay for them,” the memorandum states. “She opened the box, took the pills and, rather than replacing the pills with candies, stones, anything harmless, she refilled the bottle with muscle relaxers that she no longer used.”

The memorandum points out Holman “has spent her life desperate for money,” suffers from mental health and intellectual disabilities and is functionally illiterate.

“Without ill-will, only a person with limited intelligence would have done what Holman did to avoid paying for this relatively inexpensive medication,” the memorandum states. “She does, now, appreciate the potential consequence to another of her criminal behavior.”

Prosecutors contended that Holman admitted to committing a similar offense two months earlier and said her conduct “implicated and strained the resources of multiple corporations in varying ways” before investigators were able to determine where the tainted products originated.

The government's sentencing memorandum claims Holman used her mentally-challenged eldest child to return the tainted Advil, “an act which speaks to the defendant’s attempt to avoid detection and shield herself to the detriment of her disabled daughter.”

Prosecutors further noted that, at the time of Holman’s offense, she was still on probation after pleading guilty to stealing over $5,300 in food stamps by falsifying information on a 2011 assistance application.

“The crime appears to be part of a pattern of behavior engaged in by the defendant that demonstrates a reckless disregard for others,” the government's memo states. “In essence, the defendants placed others at risk, particularly children, in order to have a few more dollars in her pocket.”

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

Alex Wigglesworth
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