Yuliya Kuznets came to the United States from her native Belarus in 1999, when she was 18.
She was ranked the No. 10 tennis player in her home country, and she wanted to play collegiate tennis in the United States.
She played for Lewis University in Chicago in 2003-04, when she was named player of the year in the Great Lakes Valley Conference and finished the season ranked 28th nationally, according to the university’s website.
While in college, she majored in criminal/social justice, a fact that was to become ironic.
Fourteen years later, Kuznets was dressed in black, with only her eyes showing, as she and a partner, with guns in their hands, jumped over a pharmacy counter at the Walgreens on Janesville’s Milton Avenue, according to a criminal complaint filed in Rock County Court on Monday.
The time was shortly after 3 a.m. on June 26.
They ordered the pharmacist to the ground and asked where they could find hydrocodone. When they asked for more, he gave up his keys, and Kuznets opened a cabinet containing the drugs, according to the complaint.
They told the pharmacist to lie down, and they zip-tied his hands behind his back. Then they told him they were sorry and pepper-sprayed him, according to the complaint.
The pharmacist told police Kuznets said he would have to lie to police about the incident, or else he would be “f…… dead,” according to the complaint.
After they left, the pharmacist knocked the phone off its base and used his nose and tongue to call for help, according to the complaint.
Officials later determined the robbers took 420 Hydrocodone 10s, 462 Oxycodone pills, 462 Hydrocodone 7.5s and 100 Zolpidem, a sedative.
The Rock County District Attorney’s Office issued criminal complaints and arrest warrants for Kuznets, now 37, and James B. Akerman, 50, on Monday. The rest of their story suggests their motive for this and two other robberies was addiction to opioid painkillers.
The addiction to opioids, which often leads to the cheaper and illicit heroin, is a plague that has swept the nation in recent years, with addicts going to great lengths to get the drugs they crave.
Janesville Detective Chris Buescher told The Gazette in August it appeared the pair were just using the drugs, not selling any.
Kuznets gave a statement to Janesville police in August, after she and Akerman were arrested in Illinois.
The pair are accused of robbing a Walgreens in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, in a manner similar to the Janesville robbery, and of a robbery at the Van Galder bus depot in Rockford, Illinois, both in July.
Kuznets told a Janesville police detective that she was given medication for pain she started feeling while playing tennis.
A year after her impressive tennis victories at Lewis, she started working for Rockford police, and after about three years, she began working for Metro Enforcement, a private security company, she told police.
The Rockford Register Star gave a different version, saying Kuznets was fired from Rockford police in 2013.
Akerman also worked for Metro Enforcement, and they both were fired last January, Kuznets told police.
“Kuznets lost her health insurance and went to a pain-management clinic, where they told her she had rheumatoid arthritis and sent her away without medication,” according to the complaint.
She found a doctor who prescribed Norco, an acetaminophen-hydrocodone mixture, for pain and Zolpidem for “a sleep issue,” according to the complaint.
“She said the doctor kept prescribing the pills to her and eventually increased the number of pills, as she was acquiring a tolerance for them,” according to the complaint.
Kuznets admitted to both Walgreens robberies and said they tied up three employees in the Hoffman Estates robbery, according to the complaint.
Kuznets said Akerman’s gun accidentally went off during the robbery at the Rockford bus station.
Akerman declined to give a statement.
It appears the pair will face charges in Illinois before Rock County authorities have a chance. They are being held without bail in the Winnebago County (Illinois) Jail and are awaiting court proceedings on armed robbery charges, according to online court records.
Akerman’s next court appearance in Rockford is Thursday. Kuznets’ is Dec. 20.
In Rock County, they are charged with party to armed robbery, false imprisonment and use of pepper spray during a crime, causing bodily harm.