A pharmacy manager from Burnsville, North Carolina, pleaded guilty for her role in the fraudulent diversion of prescription drugs and money laundering, the Department of Justice announced today.
Karen Ann Turner, 37, pleaded guilty in the Western District of North Carolina to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Turner was charged in connection with a fraudulent scheme that operated out of pharmacies in Burnsville, North Carolina, and Travelers Rest, South Carolina. As a part of that scheme, Turner bought prescription drugs at lower prices by falsely stating that the drugs would be used to fill patient prescriptions through the pharmacies that she operated. Instead of using the drugs for patient prescriptions, Turner sold them at higher prices to unauthorized drug wholesalers. Some of the prescription drugs that Turner bought and sold were in short supply. Turner laundered the profits of her fraud scheme by transferring them through bank accounts that she controlled. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.
“The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting those who fraudulently divert prescription drugs from their authorized and controlled distribution system,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “These fraud schemes increase the risk that patients will receive ineffective or unsafe drugs, and can expose hospitals to exorbitant prices for drugs that are in short supply.”
“We rely on pharmacies to safeguard the integrity of our prescription drug system and to protect public safety. Turner’s financially motivated scheme is particularly troubling because it removed prescription drugs from lawful distribution channels, potentially putting consumers’ health at risk,” said U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose for the Western District of North Carolina.
As part of her guilty plea, Turner admitted that she operated two pharmacies to fraudulently obtain prescription drugs at low prices that were only available to pharmacies that agreed to use the drugs to fill patient prescriptions. Instead of using the drugs to fill prescriptions as she said she would, Turner sold the drugs to drug wholesalers for more than she paid, taking the drugs out of their controlled distribution system.
“When prescription drugs are diverted from the legal supply chain, there is no longer any assurance that the products are safe and effective for their intended uses,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin D. Green of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations’ Miami Field Office. “Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder of the FDA’s continued focus on criminals that put profits ahead of the U.S. public health by distributing prescription drugs outside the legitimate supply chain.”
This case is being prosecuted through the coordinated efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, with assistance from FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel. The criminal investigation was conducted by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc.
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