Admitted and alleged drug scammers nabbed in 5 states

The challenges of controlling prescription drug-related fraud are clear as these schemes continue to make news. Secretaries in a Florida doctor's office, for example, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and aggravated identity theft related to a bogus prescriptions scheme executed under their employer's nose, ProPublica reported. The scam cost the government roughly $7 million and came to light through a mailing error.

Carmen Ortiz-Butcher, M.D., asked an employee to mail her brother a fanny pack, but he received a wad of fake prescriptions instead that were supposedly signed by his sister. The brother contacted authorities.

It turned out that the doctor's secretaries collected money to produce false prescriptions that local pharmacies billed to Medicare often without dispensing any drugs. Ortiz-Butcher's prescription costs jumped from $181,000 to $4,973,000 in four years, according to ProPublica. Forging prescriptions is an easily committed crime, as FierceHealthPayer:Anti-Fraud reported.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, CVS head pharmacist Frank Mordente pleaded guilty to administering fraudulently-filled painkillers and obstructing law enforcement, according to the Pocono Record. Authorities linked Mordente to illegal prescriptions for more than 17,000 Oxycodone tablets between 2012 and 2013. Mordente admitted using peoples' names falsely to fill Oxycodone prescriptions, creating phony call-in prescriptions for Vicodin and dispensing drugs as a gift, the Record reported.

Another head pharmacist in New Jersey, Leonard Stefanelli, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for selling Oxycodone without prescriptions, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. And a North Carolina teacher and her physician husband were caught running a prescription pill ring out of an elementary school and charged with conspiracy to commit prescription fraud, People Magazine noted.

Finally, a Manhattan celebrity dermatologist was arrested for allegedly writing fake prescriptions for painkillers using names of former patients, filling these prescriptions and keeping the drugs, the New York Times reported. Cheryl Karcher, M.D., pleaded not guilty to drug possession, selling prescriptions, falsifying business records and fraud.

"Dr. Karcher possessed hundreds, if not thousands, of Percocets, Klonopin and other drugs over the past three years, drugs she obtained through fraud," said prosecutor Jeffrey Linehan at Karcher's arraignment.

For more:
- read the ProPublica article
- see the Pocono Record article
- view the DOJ announcement
- here's the People Magazine article
- read the New York Times article

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