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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANGELA DODGE

Dec. 16, 2011

PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER
(713) 567-9388

Pharmacy Technician Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Commit Health Care Fraud

McALLEN, Texas - Valerie Jean Flores 38, of Mission, Texas, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Flores was formerly employed a senior pharmacist technician by Sara Elicia Garza, 55, also of Mission - a pharmacist and owner and operator of Sara’s Pharmacy and Gift Corner located in Mission.

Flores pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud at a hearing held earlier today before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. At that hearing, Flores admitted that she participated in the conspiracy to defraud the Texas Medicaid/Vendor Drug program by submitting false and fraudulent claims for prescription medication that was not dispensed or provided. Specifically, Flores admitted the claims were false and fraudulent for one or more of a variety of reasons - medications were never provided or dispensed, the beneficiary had never seen the physician purporting to prescribe the medication, prescription medications were written for the treatment of medical conditions that the beneficiary did not have, claims were for refills of prescription medications authorized by a physician but which the beneficiary did not request and did not receive and/or that the prescription medications were never dispensed to beneficiaries but were billed (referred to as “running extras” by Flores and her co-conspirators) in lieu of collecting co-pays for prescriptions that were actually dispensed or in lieu of collecting money for purchases from the Sara’s Pharmacy Gift Store.

Flores also admitted that to cover up the fraud and the conspiracy she and co-defendant Garza, along with other unindicted co-conspirators, forged prescriptions, doctors’ signatures on prescriptions, customers’ signatures on logs that purportedly indicated that a customer beneficiary had received medications and altered pharmacy records.

Flores faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine plus up to three years of post-prison supervised release at her sentencing which is scheduled for April 5, 2012. Flores was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing, at which time the court will also decide the amount of restitution to be ordered.

Garza, who is also on bond, is currently pending trial in February 2012. She is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

In July 2011, agents from the FBI and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Texas Attorney General’s Office executed a federal search warrant and seized documents and computers at Sarah’s Pharmacy and Gift Store. The pharmacy closed on or about Oct. 28, 2011, while the gift store remains operational.

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Casey N. MacDonald and Special Assistant United States Attorney Rex G. Beasley are prosecuting the case.