A pharmacist, a GP and a clinic owner allegedly conspired to dispense controlled drugs using invalid scripts in order to commit fraud
Dr James Ferris, Katherine Dossey, and Sherry Isbell, all from Oklahoma in the US, have been recently sentenced for their respective roles in the unlawful distribution of controlled substances and health care fraud.
A federal grand jury returned a 103-count indictment charging the three parties with crimes related to the distribution of controlled prescription drugs in 2018.
According to the indictment, Ms Isbell was the owner of a GP clinic, and Dr Ferris was a GP employed by the clinic. Ms Dossey was a licensed pharmacist who owned a retail pharmacy located in the same building as the clinic.
From September to December 2015, the defendants allegedly conspired to dispense prescription-controlled substances, including opioids such as hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl.
Dr Ferris allegedly provided pharmacist Ms Dossey with stacks of pre-signed, blank prescription pads.
Clinic owner Ms Isbell provided Ms Dossey with access to patient records, allowing her to prepare invalid prescription refills utilising the pre-signed prescription pads.
The indictment further alleged that the three defendants conspired to commit health care fraud in connection with these pre-signed prescriptions.
Due to the unlawful nature of the prescriptions, any claim for reimbursement to Medicare was a false claim for payment, stated the US Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Oklahoma, Department of Justice.
On 26 January 2021, Dr Ferris pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of fentanyl without a valid prescription and one count of care fraud. He has been sentenced to 42 months’ probation.
Dr Ferris also agreed to surrender his licence to practise medicine in Oklahoma and would not apply for a medical license in Oklahoma for a period of three years from the date of surrender.
Ms Dossey pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud. On 27 January 2021, she was sentenced to 54 months’ probation.
As part of the terms of her plea agreement, Ms Dossey has agreed to surrender her Oklahoma pharmacy licence and further agreed that she would never reapply for that licence.
Clinic owner Ms Isbell pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud. On 3 February 2021, she was sentenced to 24 months’ probation.
The judge additionally ordered the co-conspirators to pay restitution to the US’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the amount of $53,468.74, as well as to the Oklahoma Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the amount of $20,301.51.
Restitution was ordered to be paid jointly and severally among the defendants, representing the monetary amount Medicare unknowingly reimbursed for the unlawful prescriptions.
“The tragic consequences of opioid abuse are an ongoing problem in our Oklahoma communities,” said US Attorney Timothy Downing.
“These criminal convictions send a clear message that those given the power to prescribe controlled substances will be held to high standards of ethical and professional behaviour in accordance with the law.”