SEATTLE WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO FORGING PRESCRIPTIONS FOR NARCOTIC PAINKILLERS
Former Employee Stole Doctor’s Prescription Pads to Forge Prescriptions
MONICKA TAM, 32, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle today to the felony offense of Acquiring a Controlled Substance through Misrepresentation and Deception. TAM will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on August 17, 2007. The maximum penalty is up to four years in prison, a $30,000 fine and one year of supervised release. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend a probationary sentence for TAM, so long as the sentence includes both drug treatment and community service.
According to the plea agreement, TAM was working as a Program Specialist in the General Surgery Department at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Seattle. Her duties included assisting medical staff members in admitting patients to the VA for medical treatment. She removed prescription pads from the VA belonging to one of its treating physicians. She then filled out the prescriptions on several occasions, prescribing for herself varying quantities of oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance. She forged the name of the treating physician on each prescription, and set forth the physician’s unique DEA authorization number for narcotics. She then took the prescriptions to local pharmacies and had them filled by the pharmacies. She did this on numerous occasions, forging and filling more than 20 prescriptions for such drugs.
As part of the disposition, the Government has agreed to recommend a sentence of probation, upon appropriate conditions, to include community service and letters of apology to the VA and to the treating physician. TAM lost her job at the VA due to the criminal conduct.
Both oxycodone and hydrocdone are prescription pain killers that are highly addictive. The illegal diversion of such drugs by those involved in the medical profession remains an area of concern to law enforcement. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 6 million Americans are currently abusing controlled substance prescription drugs – that is more than the number abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. Researchers at the Center for Disease Control report that opiate prescription pain killers cause more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin.
This case was investigated by the Veteran’s Administration Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ron Friedman.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.