Tag Archives: criminal charges

South Florida Man Busted for Fraudulently Working as a Pharmacist

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On July 24, 2012, a 49-year-old man from Ruskin in South Fla., pleaded guilty in federal court to fraudulently working as a Central Florida pharmacist from 2000 to 2009, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a press release.


Man Allegedly Gave the Wrong Prescription to At Least One Customer.

Prosecutors said this man worked at pharmacies throughout Central Florida, including CVS pharmacy and Walgreens. According to the Orlando Sentinel, while working at one of the pharmacies, he gave a customer the incorrect medication, causing that person to suffer a severe reaction and stroke.


How He Obtained a License. 

Allegedly, the man fraudulently obtained a pharmacist license in September of 2000 from the State Department of Health (DOH) by using the name, date of birth, Social Security number and pharmacy education information of a licensed pharmacist.

The fake pharmacist was able to renew the license and was allegedly receiving paychecks from pharmacies through the mail.

How the Fake Pharmacists Got Caught.

Local authorities began investigating the South Florida man after a legitimate pharmacist in Arizona reported that his identity had been stolen.

The legitimate pharmacist first learned in 2007 that someone was using his identity in Florida when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contacted him about undeclared earnings. He had never worked in Florida and learned someone was posing as him and working as a pharmacist under his name, according to the court records.

To see the full press release on this case, click here.

Fake Pharmacist Facing a Number of Charges and Possibly Time in Prison.

The fraudulent pharmacist pled guilty to mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering in Orlando. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the mail fraud charge, 10 years for the money laundering charge, and a minimum of two years for any other sentence for the aggravated identity theft charge, the Justice release said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigated the case with assistance from the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance.

Click here to see our experience representing pharmacists and pharmacies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

FBI.gov. “Pharmacist Impersonator Charged with Mail Fraud, Identity Theft, and Money Laundering.” FBI, Tampa Division. (July 24, 2012). From Press Release: http://www.fbi.gov/tampa/press-releases/2012/pharmacist-impersonator-pleads-guilty-to-mail-fraud-identity-theft-and-money-laundering

TBO.com. “Ruskin Man Admits Identity Theft in Fake Pharmacist Case.” Tampa Bay Online. (July, 24, 2012). From: http://www2.tbo.com/news/health-4-you/2012/jul/24/ruskin-man-admits-identity-theft-in-fake-pharmacis-ar-440248/

Pavuk, Amy. “Feds: Man Stole Pharmacist’s Identity, Worked at Pharmacies Across Metro Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. (July 24, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-07-24/news/os-pharmacist-stolen-identity-20120724_1_pharmacies-illinois-court-federal-court

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.
Advertisements

Respiratory Therapists: Talk to an Attorney Before You Talk to an Investigator

By Michael L. Smith, J.D., R.R.T.

In Florida, You DO NOT Have to Talk to an Investigator!

Despite mailing out hundreds of thousands of postcards and letters to respiratory therapists, throughout Florida, we continue to receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators. In Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you. This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators”) or criminal investigators of any type.

Investigators are NOT Looking Out for You.

Let me state this as succinctly and clearly as possible. If you are being investigated, you will not be better off making a statement. You will not be better off explaining your side of the story. The investigator is not your friend. The investigator is not on your side. All you are doing is falling for a trick and helping the government to make a case against you.

Protect Yourself and Your License.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you. This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights.

However, in cases where you might have your respiratory therapy license revoked, the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out. However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage. You may be the best witness the government has, and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove this case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement. However, in a case where you can lose your professional license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this. You must protect yourself.

Many respiratory therapists, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.” This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

Do NOT Admit to Anything; It May Ruin Your Defense.

In the absence of a statement by the suspect (in this case, let’s assume this is YOU), the government may have a very difficult time of proving that you have committed any offense. It may have other witnesses (who may not be around at the time of any hearing or trial). It may have a lot of physical evidence or documents. But it may be impossible for the government investigators to make any link between you and the evidence, unless you help the investigators do this. You would be surprised at how many respiratory therapists believe that they can just talk their way out of the situation; in reality, they are just giving evidence that is used to make the case against them.

Any evidence at all, just admitting that you were there, admitting that the documents are yours, admitting that the patient was yours, admitting that you worked at the clinic, admitting that the property is yours, admitting that you were on duty at the time, admitting that you have taken a drug, admitting that you signed the form, can be a crucial piece of evidence that could not otherwise be proven without your own testimony.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession. This is what they do full time, every day. And they are very good at it. They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.” They will not be convinced by any excuses you make. They do not have to be. They will not be the ones making the final decision against you. Theirs is the job of putting together the case against you. You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc. It will not work. You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

What’s the Purpose of the Investigation.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Department of Health Quality Assurance Investigator or Medical Malpractice Investigator, they are probably only investigating possible disciplinary action against your license that could result in large administrative fines or revocation of your license.

Do Not Try to Talk Your Way Out of the Investigation.

Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator. Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege. If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either. Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator. In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act. This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

These investigators are lied to all the time. They are usually better at detecting lies than a polygraph expert is. Furthermore, in most cases, you will be the very last person to be interviewed. Therefore, they will already know just about everything that can be used against you. If your statement contradicts in any way what others have told them, they will know you are the one who is lying. However, knowing something or suspecting something does not mean it will be something that can be proven in court or in an administrative hearing.

Consult an Attorney FIRST.

It is much better to make no statement at all. Blame it on your attorney. Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time. “Speak to my attorney.” “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

All you have to do is state “I must talk to my lawyer before I say anything.” “I will have my lawyer contact you.” “I cannot say anything until I talk to my lawyer.” “I want a lawyer.”

If you are not the one being investigated, then there is no reason why the investigator would want you to make a statement before you consulted with your attorney. What is the rush?

Then you must also avoid the old trick of the investigator telling you “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a lawyer?” Please don’t fall for this trick, either. This is America. Smart people and rich people spend a lot of money on attorneys and other professionals to represent them and advise them. There is a good reason why they do this.

Far too often the respiratory therapist only calls us after he has given a statement. This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused.

Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements. Do not make either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Think of this as an intelligence test. Are you smart enough to follow this guidance and avoid this type of mistake?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations Involving Respiratory Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to respiratory therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, J.D., R.R.T. is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

DEA Has Online List of Cases Against Doctors

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has a public list of physicians with DEA registrations that have been arrested and prosecuted. On the DEA’s website, there is a list of all investigations of physician registrants in which the DEA was involved that resulted in the arrest and prosecution of the registrant which was updated and released on April 3, 2012.

The list includes:
• The name of the physician;
• The physician’s city/state;
• Date of arrest/conviction;
• Judicial status;
• Conviction;
• Status of the physician’s DEA registration; and
• Remarks regarding the physician’s case.

Click here to view a copy of the most recent list (last updated on April 3, 2012).

We cannot vouch for the validity of the information on the DEA’s list. We just know it was published.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling DEA cases. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse action by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author:  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

The Collateral Effects of a Criminal Case on a Health Care Licensee

Criminal charges against a health care professional can have serious consequences. Learn more about the impact of a criminal charge on Florida licensed health professionals. For further information, visit our website.

What is the Effect of a Plea of Nolo Contendere for a Florida Licensed Health Professional?

Pursuant to the general chapter of Florida Statutes applicable to all licensed health professionals (Chapter 456), a plea of nolo contendere is treated the same as a plea of guilty for all purposes.  Additionally the chapter of Florida Statutes that governs each type of health professional usually contains similar provisions;  sometimes this will be in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rules that have been adopted by the separate professional licensing board for that profession.

What Is the Effect of an Adjudication or Finding of Adjudication Withheld?

Pursuant to the general chapter of Florida Statutes applicable to all licensed health professionals (Chapter 456), an adjudication or finding of adjudication withheld (or “adjudication deferred” in some jurisdictions) is treated the same as a finding of guilty for all purposes.  Additionally the chapter of Florida Statutes that governs each type of health professional usually contains similar provisions;  sometimes this will be in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rules that have been adopted by the separate professional licensing board for that profession.

When must a Licensed Health Professional Report Guilty Pleas (Nolo Plea or Guilty Plea) and Convictions (Adjudication Withheld or Finding of Guilty) to the Florida Department of Health?

Any guilty plea (as defined above as a nolo plea or guilty plea) or any adjudication of guilt (as defined above as adjudication withheld or finding of guilty) of any crime must be reported  by the health professional to his or her professional licensing board (or the Department of Health when there is no board) within thirty (30) days of the conviction or finding.  Section 456.072(1)(x), Florida Statutes.

In Florida, all health professionals licensed or regulated under Chapter 456 of Florida Statutes, are required to report to their professional board (or the Florida Department of Health if there is no professional board in their profession) any convictions or findings of guilty of criminal offenses, in any jurisdiction.  Unfortunately, pursuant to Florida Statutes, a plea of nolo contendere must be reported just as a plea of guilty to an offense (a plea of not guilty does not need to be reported).  A finding of guilty or a finding of adjudication withheld (also called a “withhold” or “deferred adjudication” in some jurisdictions) must also be reported (a finding of not guilty, a dismissal, a nolle prosequi, pretrial diversion or pretrial intervention program in almost all cases dose not have to be reported).

Licensed practitioners who also are required to have a profile with the Department of Health (e.g., physicians licensed under Chapters 458, 459, 460 or 461), must submit an update to their profile, including criminal convictions, within fifteen (15) days of the “final activity that renders such information a fact.”  Section 456.042, Florida Statutes.

For example, a doctor of medicine (M.D.), licensed pursuant to chapter 458, Florida Statutes, must submit an update to the physician’s profile within fifteen (15) days.  A registered respiratory therapist, on the other hand, doesn’t have a profile.  The registered respiratory therapist would have to report  a matter qualifying with the above within thirty (30) days to his or her board, the Board of Respiratory Care.  (A finding of not guilty, a dismissal, a nolle prosequi, pretrial diversion or pretrial intervention program in almost all cases dose not have to be reported).

As with any such important legal matter, we recommend reporting in a typed, professional letter, via a reliable method of delivery which provides tracking and delivers you a receipt.  We do not consider e-mail to be reliable or susceptible of verification or tracking.  We usually recommend reporting such matters via U.S. Express Mail, with a return receipt requested.  Be sure to keep copies of the correspondence, the receipt of mailing and the return receipt, to document reporting and delivery dates, and to prove receipt.

Always consult the latest versions of the Florida Statutes and the Rules of the Department of Health and your professional board to make sure you have the correct information.  We recommend retaining a health attorney familiar with the Department of Health and its regulatory processes, as such a report will usually require the Department of Health to commence an investigation of the health professional, even if the health professional is located in another state.

Which Crimes May Result in an Automatic Bar to Licensure?

Senate Bill 1984, effective July 1, 2009, amended various section of Florida Statutes, including sections of Chapter 456.  These amendments prohibit the Department of Health from granting a new license to or granting the renewal of a license to a health professional because of a guilty plea or conviction of certain offenses.  This is also grounds for revocation of the health professional’s license.

Generally, as set forth in Section 456.0635(2)(a), Florida Statutes these are:

Being convicted of, or entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under:

    • Chapter 409 (the Medicaid Program)
    • Chapter 817 (Fraud)
    • Chapter 893 (Drugs)
    • 21 U.S.C. Sects. 801-970 (Food and Drugs);  or
    • 42 U.S.C. Sects. 1395-1396 (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security)

unless the sentence and any subsequent period of probation for such conviction or pleas ended more than 15 years prior to the date of the application.  (Sect. 456.0635(2)(a), Fla. Stat.)

Additionally, grounds for discipline against the existing license of health professional includes:

    • Any misdemeanor or felony relating to Medicaid fraud:  “Being convicted of, or entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, any misdemeanor or felony, regardless of adjudication, under 18 U.S.C. Sect. 669, Sects. 285-287, Sect. 371, Sect. 1001, Sect. 1035, Sect. 1341, Sect. 1343, Sect. 1347, Sect. 1349, or Sect. 1518, or 42 U.S.C. Sects. 1320a-7b, relating to the Medicaid program.”  (Sect. 456.072(1)(ii), Fla. Stat.
    • Being convicted of, or entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, any misdemeanor or felony, regardless of adjudication, a crime in any jurisdiction which relates to health care fraud.  (Sect. 456.072(1)(ll), Fla. Stat.

Defense Strategies and Avoidances

    • Plead to some offense or offenses other than the ones listed above.
    • Avoid a felony conviction;  misdemeanors do not prohibit licensure or renewal, but may result in disciplinary action.
    • Avoid any offenses that sound like “health fraud,” “Medicaid fraud” or “Medicare fraud.”
    • Violations of other states’ laws don’t count;  just Florida’s and federal listed above (caveat).
    • Attempt to obtain pre-trial diversion, pre-trial intervention or drug court.
    • Attempt to avoid having to enter a guilty plea or nolo plea.
    • Attempt to include in settlement agreement/plea bargain agreement/stipulation that client may apply to have record sealed immediately upon completion of requirements and State will not object.
    • Advise client to immediately apply for sealing of record when all requirements of probation are met.
    • Obtain input from a board certified health lawyer or other “expert” as to the disproportionate effect (all of the collateral consequences) that a “conviction” may have on the licensed health professional.

What Are the Collateral Effects of “Conviction” of above Offenses?

  1. A case involving an arrest or a conviction involving alcohol abuse (DUI/public Intoxication) or drugs (possession, diversion, theft, trafficking) will probably result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) until entire licensure case is complete.
  2. Client may be required to be evaluated and probably enrolled in the Impaired Nurses Program (IPN) (for nurses only) or the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) (for all other licensed health professionals), which is usually at least a five year contract.
  3. Action to revoke, suspend or take other action against the clinical privileges and medical staff membership of those licensed health professionals who may have such in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, or staff model HMO or clinic.  This will usually be physicians, physician assistants (PAs), advance registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), podiatrists, clinical psychologists and clinical pharmacists.
  4. Mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) (Note:  Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently folded into NPDB) which remains there for 50 years.
  5. Must be reported to and included in the DOH profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains for at least ten years.
  6. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the client has a license will also initiate action against him or her in that jurisdiction.  (Note:  I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states).
  7. The OIG of HHS will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program.  If this occurs (and most of these offense require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.
  8. If the above occurs, the provider is also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting and is placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) debarment list.
  9. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.
  10. The certified health professional’s certify organization will act to revoke his or her certification.
  11. Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.
  12. Any profile maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., American Medical Association physician profile or Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy profile) will include the conviction.
  13. Regardless of any of the above, any facility licensed by AHCA (hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), public health clinics, public health clinics, group homes for the developmentally disabled, etc.) that are required to perform background screenings on their employees will result in AHCA notifying the facility and the professional that he or she is disqualified from employment.