In 2015, investigators discovered that 97 fraudulent prescriptions were made under the same name. The prescription pad belonged to a nurse practitioner around Colorado Springs, who claimed to have never issued the prescriptions or even knew many of the patients listed to receive them. She had, however, recently fired an employee who was later linked back to the scandal.
This was not a one-time case of prescription drug fraud. The prescriptions were for drugs like Oxycodone, Methadone, Xanax, and Ambien. Vast numbers of each of these drugs were distributed in the fraud ring. How vast? Over 11,000 tablets of Oxycodone where distributed.
Twenty-five people were charged when this scandal broke. While most of them were apprehended and sentenced fairly quickly, three people remained on the loose. Earlier in the year, that number went down to two. Jesse Gianni, 26, was arrested in late January for his ties to the ring, as well as other criminal offenses (theft, driving under restraint, and so on). Allegedly, he fraudulently obtained 120 tablets of Oxycodone.
If Gianni and the other two suspects face fates like the rest of the people who were apprehended, they will probably get 18 months of probation (if they plead guilty to possession of a controlled substance). Colorado Springs officers are not about to give up on the two people on the loose, either.
Prescription drug fraud is a growing problem, and with so many people involved in these rings, they can lead to big arrests in the state of Colorado.
What Is Prescription Drug Fraud?
Pills like Oxycodone or Xanax can easily be abused and seriously damage a person who is not fit to take them. That’s why they require prescriptions from a doctor.
Unfortunately, these drugs can be highly addictive, or sell for high prices, and people have found ways to get around a prescription: faking it. When a person uses false information or lies to obtain prescription drugs, they have committed prescription drug fraud.
Prescription drug fraud happens in a few different ways:
- Forgery – This is what happened in the case above. A nurse’s prescription pad was stolen, and fraudsters forged prescriptions that were perceived as legitimate. Forged prescriptions may also be made through a computer, or by altering the amount of drugs prescribed to a patient.
- Impersonating Medical Staff – A fraudster may call into a pharmacy, saying they were a nurse or doctor, and ask the pharmacy to call them back on their personal phone number. Fraudsters may also try to impersonate a manufacturer of distributor of the drugs in order to get a hold of them.
- Doctor Shopping – This is one of the most common forms of prescription drug fraud. This process involves visiting multiple doctors in order to get multiple prescriptions of the same drug. A doctor would not offer a patient drugs if they had the knowledge of what the patient had been previously prescribed, so the fraudster withholds this information.
More examples can be found on our previous blog post.
What Are The Penalties for Prescription Drug Fraud?
All of the above schemes call for different penalties. A single person who doctor shops, for example, may face a less severe penalty than someone who steals a prescription pad and distributes it to multiple people.
In general, the crime is considered a class 4 felony under Colorado law. Additional charges may be added if the drugs are distributed or sold to others.
As we saw above, the penalties can range. While a guilty plea left many fraudsters with 18 months of probation, the nurse who initially stole the prescription pad was sentenced to 45 days in jail, 250 community service hours, and three years of probation. Sentencing may be determined by the amount of people affected by the defendant’s actions, as well as the amount and type of drugs obtained fraudulently.
Defenses For Prescription Drug Fraud
Prescription drug fraud is a serious crime, and requires a serious defense strategy. There are many options available for defendants who are accused of these crimes. The defendant may be able to negate all of the evidence that proves them guilty. They may be able to prove that at least some of the drugs were obtained legally.
In other cases, a defendant may find it best to show the judge that they acted due to their addiction to drugs, and rather than seeking punishment, a judge would be better off offering rehabilitation to the defendant.
A Denver prescription drug fraud attorney can help you choose a defense strategy that best fits your case, and act on that strategy when you appear in court.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.