South Hills Pharmacist Pleads to Health Care Fraud Conspiracy, Fraudulently Obtaining Controlled Substances and Misbranding Drugs
PITTSBURGH, PA - A South Hills pharmacist pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, misbranding of drugs, and health care fraud conspiracy, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.
Timothy W. Forester, 46, of Venetia, PA pleaded guilty to three counts before Senior United States District Judge David S. Cercone.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Forester was a licensed pharmacist who owned four pharmacies – Century Square Pharmacy in West Mifflin, PA and Prescription Center Plus with locations in South Park, PA, McMurray, PA and Eight Four, PA. From on or about November 14, 2018, to on or about February 14, 2019, Forester admitted he knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully obtained oxycodone and hydrocodone, Schedule II controlled substances, by misrepresentations, fraud, and deception. Forester admitted he did not place the controlled substances into the inventories of the four pharmacies and did not maintain records to show the controlled substances were dispensed. In addition, Forester admitted he relabeled generic drugs as name brand medications and then sold them as if they were the more expensive drugs. Finally, Forester admitted filling prescriptions with generic drugs, but billing Medicare and Medicaid for the more expensive name brand drugs, thereby committing health care fraud and causing a loss to Medicare and Medicaid of approximately $680,000.
“Timothy Forester ordered opioids without adding them to inventory, mislabeled generic drugs as name-brand medications, and billed Medicare and Medicaid for name-brand drugs when he provided generics, all in violation of federal law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kaufman, “We will continue to pursue medical professionals who engage in fraud schemes to enrich themselves at the expense of their patients.”
“U.S. consumers rely on health care professionals to follow FDA requirements pertaining to prescription medications. When they take actions to evade these requirements, they put patient health at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who threaten the safety of the nation’s drug supply and, ultimately, the patients who take those drugs.”
“Pharmacy professionals who mishandle opioids in an effort to enrich themselves only exacerbate the challenges and devastation families and communities experience as a result of our nation's opioid epidemic," said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge for the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Philadelphia. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring unscrupulous health professionals to justice.”
“Pharmacists such as Forester have an obligation to properly dispense and safeguard controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone,” said Thomas Hodnett, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division. “Forester used his position of trust and access to obtain these powerful painkillers for his own use through fraud and deception.”
Judge Cercone scheduled sentencing for February 8, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. As to Count 1, the law provides for a maximum sentence of four years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both. As to Count 11, the law provides for a maximum sentence of three years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both. As to Count 12, the law provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The investigation leading to the filing of charges in this case was conducted by the Western Pennsylvania Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which combines personnel and resources from the following agencies to combat the growing prescription opioid epidemic: Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, United States Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office – Criminal Division, Civil Division and Asset Forfeiture Unit, Department of Veterans Affairs-Office of Inspector General, Food and Drug Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Licensing.