Saturday 17 March 2018

Pharmacist (72) benefited by over €70,000 by making fraudulent claims on drug forms

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Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A pharmacist has admitted 21 counts of deception in which she falsified Health Service Executive (HSE) drug forms and patient medication records.

Christine Crowley (72) of Main Street, Drimoleague, Co Cork benefitted by more than €70,000 on fraudulent Drug Payment Scheme and Long Term Illness Scheme drug forms.

While the total value of medications involved in the 21 counts was more than €1.1m, the bulk of the value of the claims were in fact for genuine medication supplies.

However, Ms Crowley admitted that she "dishonestly by deception" made fraudulent claims under those same forms for her own benefit and at the expense of the HSE.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain was told that the total sum to which Ms Crowley benefitted by was €70,000.

Jim O'Mahony SC, for Ms Crowley, told the court that the entire €70,000 has since been repaid to the HSE.

This was done by Ms Crowley, who operated a pharmacy in Dunmanway in west Cork, working for a period of 13 months for the HSE with the agency not making any drug repayments to her over the period.

She pleaded guilty to a total of 21 sample counts of deception in respect of HSE Drug Payment Scheme and Long Term Illness Scheme drug forms, as well as altering patient medication records, on dates between September 1 2004 and June 5 2009.

Judge O'Donnabhain was told that Ms Crowley's plea had saved the court enormous time and effort given the protracted trial that was expected.

Had the case gone to trial, it would have involved a total of 173 charges, 181 witnesses and more than 1,500 pieces of evidence.

Alice Fawsitt SC, for the State, acknowledged that the plea had involved a substantial saving of time and effort.

The court was told that Ms Crowley has a number of health issues.

She was permitted to remain seated while the charges were formally put to her for plea at the arraignment.

Mr O'Mahony applied for sentencing to be adjourned to allow Ms Crowley's GP to prepare a special report on her medical condition for consideration by the court.

He stressed that all monies involved have been repaid and there is no loss involved to the HSE.

Judge O'Donnabhain granted the application and remanded Ms Crowley on continuing bail to appear before Cork Circuit Criminal Court on March 3 for sentencing.

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