A California pharmacy owner has been sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted on charges of health care fraud. The government alleged that the 39-year-old Pasadena woman had billed Medicare for over $1.3 million in prescription drugs. However, these drugs were never prescribed or distributed to patients; instead, they only existed in the records submitted by the pharmacy owner.
She was found guilty of one count of health care fraud and two counts of wire fraud in December 2018 following a jury trial. In addition to the prison sentence, she was also ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution to Medicare for the amount that had been paid out to her for these claims. The woman ran Akhtamar Pharmacy, where she reportedly submitted false claims to plan sponsors of Medicare Part D programs between October 2015 and October 2017. She created phony invoices for pharmaceuticals, but never actually placed orders with wholesalers or distributed drugs to Medicare patients.
The fraud claims were investigated by the FBI, which is part of a joint force of law enforcement agencies that investigates Medicare and other types of health care fraud. Since March 2007, this national strike force has filed charges against nearly 4,000 defendants, alleging fraudulent billings of over $14 billion to Medicare and other government-backed programs.
In many cases, financial crimes like health care fraud involve multiple parties, but frequently one person is left to carry the legal weight at trial. Criminal fraud charges can lead to severe penalties like prison time and hefty fines as well as a felony criminal record. In addition, a fraud conviction can bar people from working in certain professions. As a result, people who are in this type of a position might want to meet with a criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible.