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Veterinarian cited incidents

December 10, 2013
By BILL PITCHER , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - A city veterinarian is due in Town Court on Wednesday to answer a felony charge after police said she prescribed medication for a boyfriend under a dog's name, but according to court documents, it apparently wasn't the only incident.

Amy J. French of Cherry Valley, who owns the Johnstown Animal Clinic on Route 29 in the city, was charged by state police Nov. 9 with forgery. Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said the complaint was filed during a Family Court trial between French and her estranged boyfriend, who she'd allegedly given a prescription for a diabetes medicine.

In that same trial, held in October in front of Montgomery County Family Court Judge Philip V. Cortese, French testified she prescribed herself an antidepressant in the name of her dog in 2011 - a year in which public records indicate she was facing foreclosure of her home and tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes.

"Mentally, I was not prepared to go and sit down and talk to a doctor and stuff, so I said I needed to work on my depression and I created a script for an antidepressant and I took that antidepressant," she said in the trial, in response to a question asked by her attorney, Lisa Lorman of Amsterdam.

Lorman did not return a phone message seeking comment Monday. French's estranged boyfriend, Daniel Keller, is represented by Mayfield Attorney Ronald Schur, who provided a portion of the trial transcript at The Leader-Herald's request.

Under cross-examination, French confirmed writing two prescriptions, though neither of the drugs was identified in that part of the trial.

Sira said state police are still investigating French's claim she prescribed herself medication. "You need more to make a case. Her statement alone isn't a reason to charge her," she said.

French has continued to practice at the animal clinic. The state Office of the Professions lists her license as registered, and there are no enforcement actions or disciplinary measures associated with her license.

French said the diabetes drug was prescribed after she'd tested Keller's urine, "which had elevated sugar in it," and told him to "go see a doctor because he's obviously an uncontrolled diabetic." But she decided to write the script herself after she said he rationalized that he needed to be able to use his commercial driver's license to get a job.

Under state and federal transportation laws, a diabetes diagnosis complicates the commercial licensing process. Drivers can be required to have a variance from a medical examiner. An insulin prescription can result in disqualification.

"We needed to get his diabetes under control so that he could actually use his CDL license and actually help support our children," she said in the trial.

Schur said Monday that Keller has been evaluated by a doctor and does not have diabetes.

French testified she suffered a number of personal and professional setbacks over the last few years, starting in 2008, "when the economy started tanking and the business slowed down considerably."

In January 2010, the HSBC Mortgage Corp. filed a civil action to foreclose on French's 37-acre farm and home in Charleston, alleging she had failed to continue payments on a $239,806 mortgage. That case is pending.

Keller sued her in state Supreme Court two years later, arguing she owed him $50,000 for his share of improvements to the property.

In May 2010, French said in federal court papers she lost $27,147 when her former office manager improperly used company credit cards. The two later agreed to a $13,574 settlement, according to court documents.

Five federal tax liens totaling about $57,000 were filed against French's business between August 2012 and July, but the last of them was paid and released about two weeks before her arrest, according to documents on file with the Fulton County clerk. She also has faced about $4,000 in three judgments from the state Department of Taxation and Finance and a $1,669 judgment from the state Department of Labor relating to unemployment insurance, but those have been satisfied.

She also is facing a $14,993 federal tax lien for nonpayment of income tax in 2008, and a $4,841 state tax warrant for the same year, according to documents at the Montgomery County clerk's office.

 
 

 

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