Prescription Drug Fraud
Defense Attorney in Naples
Joffe Law can go to work for you today in Collier County, Florida
Florida is a known hot spot for prescription drug fraud. According to a major health insurer, the Southern United States accounts for 48% of prescription drug fraud cases nationwide. Health insurance companies frequently alert law enforcement about suspicious billings for prescriptions that appear to indicate illegal activity. Due to the high volume of the illegal prescriptions, possession and distribution of prescription drugs in Naples, Florida, and throughout the state, the police are continually investigating suspects. They often monitor areas with many “pain clinics” where people acquire prescriptions through illicit means. Police will stop vehicles in these areas looking for people with pills. A prescription drug fraud attorney is in a position to advise and represent people arrested for this crime.
What is prescription drug fraud?
Prescription drug fraud occurs when a person obtains or attempts to obtain a prescription-only pharmaceutical by:
- forging a prescription
- stealing a physician’s blank prescription pad
- pretending to be a doctor on the phone and calling in a fake prescription
- doctor shopping at multiple clinics in the hopes of receiving multiple prescriptions
- filling another person’s prescription without permission
The state and federal governments criminalize the possession and distribution of prescription medications without valid prescriptions. State authorities process many of the cases, but federal law enforcement will get involved under certain circumstances.
People seek out many types of painkillers, sedatives or stimulants for recreational purposes or to satisfy their addictions. Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs are:
- Anabolic Steroids
Prescription opioids that are meant to control severe pain are addictive and frequently inspire prescription drug crimes. In 2019, Florida police arrested 7 people accused of trafficking oxycodone and oxymorphone. According to the attorney general’s office, the group of alleged conspirators, which included a pharmacist, convinced people to ask for the prescription opioids with fake documents. The suspects then collected the drugs and distributed them throughout South Florida.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Who is prosecuted for this offense?
Anyone employing fraudulent tactics to obtain prescription drugs can be prosecuted. However, people in the health care industry often abuse their inside positions and knowledge of medical systems to acquire pills illegally to feed addictions or make money. Cases commonly involve:
- Owners of medical businesses
When is prescription drug fraud a federal crime?
Although the majority of prescription drug crimes do not extend beyond local law enforcement, federal officials follow up on leads generated by local criminal cases. Activities involving forged prescriptions could alert federal investigators to larger crime rings.
Federal authorities look for large operations that are buying or selling significant quantities of pills. What begins as an investigation of prescription drug fraud has the potential to uncover multiple criminal acts. This was the case for a 39-year-old Florida man who entered a plea agreement with federal prosecutors for offenses related to a pharmacy business that was billing for illegal prescriptions.
The man admitted that he had conspired with prescribing physicians and paid them kickbacks. He also accepted responsibility for committing health care and mail fraud. As the owner of a pharmacy, he completed these actions by telling his employees to acquire drug prescriptions that they did not need as well as their family members and friends. His employees also changed written prescriptions and automatically refilled prescriptions. Under his direction, co-pays were discounted or eliminated to encourage patients to keep seeking prescriptions.
Misdemeanor and felony penalties
Because a number of ways exist to fraudulently acquire prescription drugs, the law categorizes offenses by severity and frequency of occurrence. A first-time offender in possession of a blank prescription pad could be charged with a misdemeanor. A conviction could result in a 1-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine.
A repeat offense for the same crime elevates the charge to a third-degree felony. Conviction at this stage increases possible prison terms to up to 5 years and fines up to $5,000.
A case that involves additional offenses related to a criminal operation, such as drug trafficking and money laundering, will expose a person to additional penalties and longer prison terms. The attention of a criminal defense attorney would be appropriate for someone confronted by multiple criminal charges that could attract strong federal prosecution.
Although every case possesses unique characteristics, a defense attorney may have several angles to explore when arguing against conviction. As with any criminal case, an attorney strives to create doubt around the evidence necessary to prove that a law was broken. Specifically, a defense strategy might:
- draw attention to an unlawful search and seizure that could eliminate evidence
- show that police coerced a person into providing incriminating statements
- prove that a physician wrote a prescription because a patient lied
- consult a highly qualified attorney
An arrest is not necessary to meet with a federal criminal defense lawyer at Joffe Law, P.A. People sometimes realize that their names have come to the attention of law enforcement. They can seek advice about how to respond if contacted. If an arrest does occur, defendants often lack clear information about the meaning of charges, possible penalties and viable defense strategies. We can answer questions related to a criminal case and prepare a person to navigate the state or federal courts. Criminal defendants have legal rights, and our mission is ensure fair treatment during an investigation or in court.