PHARMACY LAW : Uncommon "Cons"

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Sgt. Bill Stivers is in charge of the Louisville (Ky) Metro'sprescription drug diversion office in the LouisvillePolice Department. His office is extremely busy, as officerspursue those involved in a variety of felony prescriptiondrug offenses in this Kentucky town. One of the offendersstands out from among the throngs of arrests that his unitmakes each year.

Concerted efforts by his unit finally led to the arrest ofthis drug diverter, who primarily obtained forms ofhydrocodone by scamming numerous health professionals,including physicians, dentists, and pharmacists. This person,however, was different from the average doctor shopperor person who scammed health professionals—he wentway beyond the norm.

This offender visited health professionals, wearing aturtleneck sweater that had the letters "LPD" (LouisvillePolice Department) emblazoned on the neck. He also wouldsometimes have a pair of handcuffs hanging from his beltwhen he made his desperate plea to health professionals forhis pharmaceutical of choice. He would purport to be aLouisville officer from the drug diversion unit when hecalled on the telephone, even using Sgt. Stivers' name toperpetrate some of the frauds.

After this criminal was arrested, he was sentenced tospend several years at a prison farm near Louisville. Not longafter being incarcerated in this minimal-security facility, hedecided to walk away, and he was wanted for escape. He alsoimmediately began to continue the prescription frauds thathad placed him in the facility in the first place.

Since his escape, he has traveled across the country usinga variety of names, including his own. He is very good atscamming physicians and dentists into prescribinghydrocodone products for his pain. He also is good at posingas those health professionals and calling in bogus prescriptionsfor himself. I listened to a recording of one suchcall, and this offender is incredibly confident in calling inthese 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 haveworked—especially with dentists, when posing with multipleteeth problems. Once he obtains a hard copy prescription,he will use the Drug Enforcement Agency number tofurther his deceptions by calling in fraudulent prescriptions.

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

He is prominently posted on the National Association ofDrug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) Web site atwww.naddi.org. There you can learn more about this personand see his photograph. If you encounter this subject, Iwould urge you to immediately contact your local lawenforcement agency, and to take no action yourself.

One person in the Cincinnati area reminds me of theindividual I described above. He eventually used my name,and several of my investigators' names, to obtain unauthorizedinformation from local pharmacies that he used to callin 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 otherend of the phone line. If you are not familiar with the personon the phone who has identified himself or herself asa police officer, ask for a call-back number, and verify thatthe return number provided is legitimate. If you have the"Caller ID" feature on your phone, take note of the numberif you become suspicious of the person on the otherend of the line.

Plainclothes police officers who come to your storeshould prominently display their identification. Do not hesitateto ask for credentials if none are shown initially, and, ifit seems necessary, examine them closely. If you are still notconvinced or are suspicious, ask for a number that you canverify, or just call your local law enforcement office.

Your cooperation with local law enforcement is essentialin combating the prescription-drug problem. Hopefully,you have gotten to know your local officers whoinvestigate these types of crimes, and hopefully spotting afraud would be easy.

John Burke, director of the Warren County, Ohio, drugtask force and retired commander of the CincinnatiPolice Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 32-year veteranof law enforcement. For information, he can bereached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the Web sitewww.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.