POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Already facing exploitation and burglary charges in Stoddard County, an area couple now has been charged with stealing prescription medications from local residents by misrepresenting themselves to gain access to the drugs, the Daily American Republic newspaper reported.
Tonya Lynn Simpson, 34, of Bloomfield, Mo., and John L. Simpson III, 34, of Dexter, Mo., were charged Wednesday with the Class C felony of stealing by Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Barbour.
Butler County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Bill Gresham already had charged Tonya Simpson with the Class C felony of stealing in an unrelated case.
Associate Circuit Judge John Bloodworth issued warrants for the Simpsons' arrest. They are incarcerated in the Stoddard County Jail on charges there.
The charges are the result of investigations by the Poplar Bluff Police Department.
On April 17, James Deffendall, who lives in the 1100 block of Mulberry Street, reported the theft of Fentanyl patches, according to police Detective Corey Mitchell's probable cause affidavit.
Deffendall told officers on April 14 a white male and white female came to his home and identified themselves as employees from the Division of Medicaid, Mitchell said.
The pair allegedly told Deffendall they needed to look at his prescription medication to see if they could get him a discount, Mitchell said.
"Deffendall allowed them to enter his residence, and showed them his medications, which included his Fentanyl patches," Mitchell said. "(He) said he didn't think anything about it."
Mitchell said Deffendall found six of his patches missing on April 17 when he went to replace his patch. "He believed the white male and female had stolen them," he said.
On April 21, Mitchell said, he was contacted by Deffendall and his mother, who were in possession of a April 20 edition of the Daily American Republic. Included in that edition, were photographs of James Simpson and Tonya Simpson, aka Tonya Bruce, aka Tonya McCollough.
The photographs accompanied a story detailing how two Class B felonies of financial exploitation of the elderly and two Class B felonies of first-degree burglary had been filed against the Simpsons.
The Simpsons, who allegedly had posed as home health representatives and/or insurance salespeople to gain entrance into the homes, are accused of stealing money and credit cards from two Dexter women.
The Deffendalls reported to Mitchell that they were "positive, from seeing the pictures, that they (John and Tonya Simpson) were the two subjects that came to their home and stole the Fentanyl patches."
On April 22, Mitchell said, Detective Jason Morgan, who is assigned to the SEMO Drug Task Force, went to the Deffendall residence and separately showed the mother and son two photographic line ups depicting six white males, including John Simpson, and six white females, including Tonya Simpson.
Both Deffendalls pointed out the Simpsons and told officers they were "positive that they were the people who stole the Fentanyl patches."
As part of the investigation, officers also found where a report had been taken from Glena Funck on June 2 in regard to the "possible theft" of medication from her Davis Street home, Mitchell said.
At the time Funck made the report, she told the officers "she had a white female come to her door and identify herself as 'Holly' from Ameisys Home Health," Mitchell said. "'Holly' stated that she was there to do a follow-up visit after Funck's recent medical care."
Mitchell said Funck allowed the woman into her home after which "Holly," later determined to be Tonya Simpson, asked for a drink of water.
"Funck told her that this would be OK and 'Holly' went into the kitchen," Mitchell said. "Funck stated that 'Holly' was in the kitchen for a few minutes and after she returned, she stated that she had another appointment that she needed to get to."
After the woman left, Funck found her prescription medication of Vicodin was missing from the kitchen.
On April 26, Mitchell said, he and Jason Morgan interviewed Tonya Simpson at the Stoddard County Jail, where she and her husband had been held since they were charged April 16.
During an interview, Tonya Simpson "admitted that she and John had went to the Deffendall residence, but didn't steal anything," Mitchell said.
Further, Mitchell said, Tonya Simpson admitted she took three Vicodin pills from Funck's medication bottle, which was found in the kitchen.
On that day, Simpson told the officers "she was by herself and was at Funck's residence talking to her for over two hours," Mitchell said.
As part of the investigation, Mitchell said, he, Jason Morgan and Detective Leigh Morgan again met with Tonya Simpson at the jail on April 27.
Tonya Simpson, according to Mitchell, "voluntarily rode" with the officers to the Poplar Bluff area to "point out and identify residences where she had either stolen currency or prescriptions medications."
One of the residences she reportedly identified was Funck's home, Mitchell said. "(She) admitted to attempting to sell insurance and when presented with the opportunity, she stole prescription medication from Funck's residence," he said.
According to Mitchell, they also drove Tonya Simpson by the Deffendall home, and asked her if she had ever been there.
"She admitted that she and John had been there a couple of weeks ago, but did not steal anything," Mitchell said.
Tonya Simpson was returned to the Stoddard County Jail on April 27, the same day Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Briney Welborn amended the charges against her and her husband.
Welborn charged Tonya Simpson as a prior and persistent offender in that she has been convicted of Class D felony of non-support and the Class C felony of stealing, while John Simpson was charged as a prior offender in that he previously had been convicted of the Class C felony of stealing.
The Simpsons are to appear at 1:30 p.m. May 13 before Associate Circuit Judge Joe Satterfield for preliminary hearings on their Stoddard County charges.
Through the course of the local investigation, Mitchell said, officers learned "there are other teams, like John and Tonya, who are currently persons of interest and who are currently involved in similar criminal activities."
As a result, Chief Danny Whiteley said, further arrests are anticipated and additional charges may be filed against the Simpsons as the investigation continues.