/publications/issue/2004/2004-07/2004-07-8040

PHARMACY LAW : Uncommon "Cons"

Author: Cmdr John Burke

Sgt. Bill Stivers is in charge of the Louisville (Ky) Metro's prescription drug diversion office in the Louisville Police Department. His office is extremely busy, as officers pursue those involved in a variety of felony prescription drug offenses in this Kentucky town. One of the offenders stands out from among the throngs of arrests that his unit makes each year.

Concerted efforts by his unit finally led to the arrest of this drug diverter, who primarily obtained forms of hydrocodone by scamming numerous health professionals, including physicians, dentists, and pharmacists. This person, however, was different from the average doctor shopper or person who scammed health professionals—he went way beyond the norm.

This offender visited health professionals, wearing a turtleneck sweater that had the letters "LPD" (Louisville Police Department) emblazoned on the neck. He also would sometimes have a pair of handcuffs hanging from his belt when he made his desperate plea to health professionals for his pharmaceutical of choice. He would purport to be a Louisville officer from the drug diversion unit when he called on the telephone, even using Sgt. Stivers' name to perpetrate some of the frauds.

After this criminal was arrested, he was sentenced to spend several years at a prison farm near Louisville. Not long after being incarcerated in this minimal-security facility, he decided to walk away, and he was wanted for escape. He also immediately began to continue the prescription frauds that had placed him in the facility in the first place.

Since his escape, he has traveled across the country using a variety of names, including his own. He is very good at scamming physicians and dentists into prescribing hydrocodone products for his pain. He also is good at posing as those health professionals and calling in bogus prescriptions for himself. I listened to a recording of one such call, and this offender is incredibly confident in calling in these phony prescriptions.

He has traveled to the Cincinnati (Ohio) area and to Indianapolis (Ind), and his latest venue has been Las Vegas, Nev. In each location, he has used a variety of scams that have worked—especially with dentists, when posing with multiple teeth problems. Once he obtains a hard copy prescription, he will use the Drug Enforcement Agency number to further his deceptions by calling in fraudulent prescriptions.

He has stayed in various motels, and he also likes to stay in campgrounds in the area while committing his crimes. It is unknown how he can survive financially, but he is likely involved in any number of scams perpetrated on the general public.

He is prominently posted on the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) Web site at www.naddi.org. There you can learn more about this person and see his photograph. If you encounter this subject, I would urge you to immediately contact your local law enforcement agency, and to take no action yourself.

One person in the Cincinnati area reminds me of the individual I described above. He eventually used my name, and several of my investigators' names, to obtain unauthorized information from local pharmacies that he used to call in bogus prescriptions in southwest Ohio.

Although you as pharmacists have a busy daily grind, you should make sure that you know who is on the other end of the phone line. If you are not familiar with the person on the phone who has identified himself or herself as a police officer, ask for a call-back number, and verify that the return number provided is legitimate. If you have the "Caller ID" feature on your phone, take note of the number if you become suspicious of the person on the other end of the line.

Plainclothes police officers who come to your store should prominently display their identification. Do not hesitate to ask for credentials if none are shown initially, and, if it seems necessary, examine them closely. If you are still not convinced or are suspicious, ask for a number that you can verify, or just call your local law enforcement office.

Your cooperation with local law enforcement is essential in combating the prescription-drug problem. Hopefully, you have gotten to know your local officers who investigate these types of crimes, and hopefully spotting a fraud would be easy.

John Burke, director of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 32-year veteran of law enforcement. For information, he can be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.