Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations
March 9, 2009: New Jersey Woman Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud and Causing Prescription Fertility Drugs to be Dispensed Without a Prescription
BOSTON, MA - A New Jersey woman was convicted today in federal court of mail fraud and causing prescription fertility drugs to be dispensed without a prescription.
United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, Mark Dragonetti, Resident Agent in Charge of the Food & Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigations; Jerry Carmody, Acting Inspector in Charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service and Joann Zuniga, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation - Boston Field Office, announced today that HEIDI BENHAM, age 43, formerly of Newton, Massachusetts, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to an Indictment charging eight counts of mail fraud and seven counts of causing prescription drugs to be dispensed without a prescription.
At today’s plea hearing, the prosecutor told the Court that had the case proceeded to trial the Government’s evidence would have proven that, beginning in approximately February 2001 and continuing through October 2005, BENHAM created a scheme to obtain prescription fertility drugs through fraud. As part of this scheme, BENHAM caused her health insurance plan to pay for the drugs she obtained via fraud, and then sold these drugs for profit via classified advertisements that BENHAM placed on the Internet.
BENHAM had been a patient seeking fertility treatments when she began her fraudulent scheme. BENHAM called certain specialty pharmacies that carried prescription drugs used in fertility treatments and falsely claimed that she was a representative of a physician’s office. In the call, BENHAM told the pharmacies that the physician had either prescribed or authorized a refill of a prescription of certain fertility drugs for herself. Relying upon these false statements, the pharmacies sent various prescription fertility drugs to BENHAM’s residence and billed her health insurance plan for the drugs. The Government estimated that BENHAM’s health insurance plan paid more than $500,000 in insurance claims in connection with fraudulent prescriptions for fertility drugs that were provided.
Upon receipt of the prescription fertility drugs, BENHAM sold the drugs for profit to customers throughout the country using Internet classified advertisements that she posted on various internet bulletin boards. The government estimated that BENHAM received approximately $160,000 from her sales of these drugs.
Judge Woodlock scheduled sentencing for June 16, 2009. BENHAM faces up to 20 years imprisonment, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release and a fine of over $1,000,000. BENHAM also may be ordered to forfeit $160,000.
The case was investigated by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James E. Arnold and Amanda P.M. Strachan of Sullivan’s Health Care Fraud Unit.