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A former Vernal police detective now faces criminal charges stemming from his alleged theft of a couple's pain pills, a month after the couple filed a complaint against him in federal court.

Ben Marland Murray, 38, was charged Friday in 8th District Court with unlawful use of the controlled substance database and possession of a controlled substance, both felonies. If convicted, the former detective and police force veteran of more than 10 years could face up to five years in prison for each charge.

His next district court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 23.

According to the civil complaint, Candy Holmes and Russell Smithe allege Murray looked up information about them, including medical history and other private data, in the state's prescription drug database. He learned when they filled prescriptions, for what drugs and in what quantities.

Murray, wearing his police uniform and driving his police vehicle, then visited their home at least 30 times between January and July 2011 to conduct what he called a "pill check," the complaint adds. Murray discussed their medical conditions and other personal issues and required them to produce their medications so he could count the pills.

During that process, it alleges, he would distract them and pocket pills. The complaint claims Murray knew Holmes and Smithe had criminal histories and mental health issues, were uneducated and poor, and were unlikely to question him or discover that his actions were unlawful.

But the couple started recording Murray's visits on a video camera and he was arrested in August 2011. He resigned from the police force the day after his arrest.

Murray allegedly took hundreds of OxyContin and Percocet pills from Holmes and Smithe, who seek damages of at least $2 million.

Keith Campbell, assistant Vernal police chief, said after Murray's arrest that he had no prior history of the alleged behavior during his time on the force.

Earlier this month, former Vernal resident Ben D. Mahaffey sued the city and its police officers in federal court. Mahanffey claims two Vernal police officers entered a hospice room without a warrant minutes after his wife died of colon cancer to take unused medicine. That lawsuit is pending.

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