News and Press Releases

FEDERAL JUDGE SENTENCES MAN TO THREE YEARS ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG FRAUD CONSPIRACY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2010


BIRMINGHAM – U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins today sentenced a 30-year-old man to more than three years in prison for his role in a prescription drug fraud conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

The judge imposed the 39-month prison sentence that BYRON HOPE and federal prosecutors stipulated in HOPE’s plea agreement with the government. Judge Hopkins also ordered HOPE to forfeit $72,746 as proceeds of illegal activity, and to pay the same amount in restitution to the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan.

“The fraud perpetrated in this case was a double hit on society,” Vance said. “The criminals illegally obtained narcotics and stole money from insurance companies to pay for them,” she said. “We intend to be vigilant in detecting and prosecuting this type of crime.”

Hope pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to defraud a health care benefit program and to two counts of aggravated identity theft. The identity theft charges result from two prescriptions presented under stolen names, one at a Pell City pharmacy on Feb. 8, 2009, and another at a Calera pharmacy on Feb. 21, 2009.

HOPE acknowledged in his plea agreement that he conspired with others to defraud the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan and United Health Care Inc. FEHBP provides health insurance benefits, including prescription drug coverage, to federal employees and their dependents. United Health Care administers a Flexible Spending Account for medical expenses, in which many members of the FEHBP program also were enrolled.

According to Hope’s plea agreement, the fraud was conducted as follows: From before September 2008 until June 2009, the names and identities of individuals covered by FEHBP’s prescription drug plan with Flexible spending accounts administered by United Health Care were used to create counterfeit and unauthorized prescriptions. HOPE and others in the conspiracy presented the counterfeit prescriptions to pharmacies in order to illegally obtain controlled substances, which were then distributed and sold. HOPE knew that the stolen identities used to forge prescriptions would cause a portion of the drug cost to be paid by health insurance.
     
The fraud cost FEHBP at least $72,746.

The United States Postal Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Secret Service, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Montevallo Police Department investigated this matter. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lloyd Peeples.

 

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