Former drug counselor sentenced to 7 years

Roberta Payne

POMEROY — A former Gallipolis-based counselor serving people coping with drug addiction in the Ohio Valley will spend the next seven years of her life behind bars for selling drugs to an undercover police officer.

Roberta Payne, 52, of Cheshire was sentenced Monday in Meigs County Common Pleas Court to seven years in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for selling about 30 milligrams of liquid morphine and 2,000 morphine pills to police. The drugs had a street value of about $36,000.

Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood said Payne sold the drugs to the officer in the Park and Ride area by the Meigs County Fairgrounds, and across the road from Meigs County High School.

Payne was originally arrested and charged Jan. 16 by the Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Authorities began investigating Payne after receiving a tip that she offered to sell morphine to one of her drug counseling clients.

“This case is especially disturbing because the suspect was trusted to help those suffering from addiction, but instead investigators found that she used her position of trust in an attempt to push more pills into the community,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told Ohio Valley Publishing for a story Jan. 20.

Meigs County Prosecutor Colleen Williams, at the time, said the arrest was “shocking.”

“An addiction counselor knows firsthand the effects drugs have on people, and Ms. Payne is attempting to make money preying on the very people she should be helping,” she said for the Jan. 20 story.

A grand jury originally indicted her on eight counts of drug trafficking and five counts of drug possession. But, because of a plea deal, all possession counts and six of the trafficking counts were dropped.

Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555.