World news wrapup: 28 February 2019


legal law case justice crime

US pharmacist spent stolen millions on cosmetic surgery; Canadian reporters investigate widespread pharmacy fraud;

Ontario, Canada: Global News and the Toronto Star are reporting on numerous pharmacists who have allegedly over-billed the province’s Drug Benefit Program – and the “cleaner” who helps them do so.

Carolyn Jarvis and Marco Chown Oved’s in-depth report claims that when pharmacists’ actions in billing the program are called into question, the “cleaner,” who they codename Ivan, helps them hide their fraudulent activities.

“The pharmacists are ‘scared, afraid,’ when they first call, he says. ‘The possibility exists that they’re going to jail. It’s fraud’,” the reporters write.

Such pharmacists are defrauding Canada of sums of up to millions of dollars, they say.

“Ivan” told the reporters that when pharmacies are audited, investigators look at medicines the stores invoiced for, but had never actually stocked. To get around this, he crafts fraudulent transfers from other stores, so that when inventories are examined, these medicines appear.

He also coaches pharmacists on how to respond to auditors when questioned, and to claim that medicines were never entered into their systems.

He said he had helped more than 100 Ontario pharmacies cover up such fraudulent activities in the past five years.

Only relatively few pharmacists are caught carrying out such fraud, and they’re rarely charged, the reporters write.

 

New York, New York: Pharmacist Hin Wong has pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny after defrauding Medicaid of millions of dollars which she used to fund cosmetic surgery.

The New York Post reports that Ms Wong ran a “massive HIV pill scam” by paying customers back an amount of money as an incentive to present scripts for HIV/AIDS treatments at three pharmacies.

Medicaid, the US program which helps fund medical costs for some disadvantaged people, would have reimbursed the sum of US$2,000 (AUD$2,786) per month for the scripts.

Ms Wong billed Medicaid for the reimbursement funds but the medicines were not actually dispensed.

Between her three pharmacies, she billed insurers including Medicaid a total of US$15 million (AUD$ 20,898,300) over the three years from 2014 and 2017, the Post reports.

The money was spent on “extensive” cosmetic surgery, luxury goods and travel.

Ms Wong is facing up to six years in prison and has agreed to forfeit US$3.6 million.

 

Cairo, Egypt: The former head of Egypt’s Pharmacists’ Syndicate, Mohie Ebeid, has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of assaulting a pharmacist.

Egypt Today reports that Mr Ebeid was suspended from duty at the Syndicate in December 2018 after its security workers assaulted four journalists.

This incident followed an October 2018 incident in which a group armed with “bladed weapons” went to the Syndicate’s headquarters and injured a number of pharmacists, including one who was critically hurt.

The incident, resulting from a dispute with the Syndicate’s board, saw Mr Ebeid cause significant injuries to his pharmacist victim.

The Syndicate said that the assault was the third of a recent run of such incidents, and stated that Mr Ebeid’s further actions in removing seven elected Board members had been illegal.

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