|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
Prescription fraud investigation underway
LIVINGSTON — Detectives with the Narcotics Division of the Polk County Sheriff’s office have arrested nine suspects in connection with an investigation into prescription fraud that has been under way since May. The department launched the investigation after receiving information about the mishandling of prescription pads, prescriptions and medications at a local doctor’s office, according to Lt. Andy Lowrie, head of PCSO’s Narcotics Division. “The investigation showed that a local doctor’s office was not controlling prescription pads and even signed prescription pads as needed,” according to a written statement released by Lowrie Friday. “The entire doctor’s office had access to signed and unsigned prescription pads which led to prescriptions being written by office staff to several subjects who had never been seen by the doctor at that office.” “During the investigation, one of Polk County’s local pharmacies popped up as being the place to fill the medications without a lot of questions being asked — or when questions were asked, the pharmacist would OK the medication to be filled anyway,” Lowrie said. The sheriff’s office Narcotics Division investigates several cases which lead to charges being filed for prescription fraud, according to Lowrie. During the prior investigations the suspects would fill their medications in outlying communities such as Cleveland, The Woodlands and Houston. Lt. Lowrie added they hardly ever see prescriptions filled locally, due to the fact that local pharmacies do a great job at preventing illegal prescriptions from being filled by asking the questions that need to be asked and by calling doctors to verify scripts before they are filled. Since this one pharmacy opened, the Narcotics Division has seen a large shift of prescriptions being filled in Polk County. Lowrie added that most of the scripts filled at the pharmacy could have been prevented from making it onto the streets if the pharmacist would have called the doctor’s office to verify prescriptions. “Prescription pill abuse is a rising problem due to the availability and if you have a script in hand, you possess it legally until proven otherwise,” Lowrie said. “This problem is spreading into our schools and to our kids. It is the responsibility of the doctors and pharmacist who prescribe and dispense the medications to help prevent illegal activity by stopping it at the source — by verifying who they write scripts to and what scripts are being filled and to whom,” Lowrie said. “The people we have investigated for prescription fraud are very deceiving when it comes to answering the doctor’s questions on medications they currently take and what they are prescribed and by what doctor,” Lowrie said. Lowrie adds that it is a small amount of doctors and pharmacists who are in business just for the money. “With the script doctors is it very easy to get a prescription written for whatever the patient wants and it is usually filled at a pharmacy where not a whole lot of questions will be asked,” Lowrie said. During the investigation the following suspects were arrested and charged with prescription fraud. Some are ex-employees of the doctor’s office and some are employees or ex-employees of the pharmacy. (Editor’s note: Booking photos for these arrestees were not available at press time. They will be posted to the Polk County Enterprise Facebook page when they are made available.) • Melissa Fitzgerald, 38, of Nacogdoches faces four counts of prescription fraud. • Jimmie Valderez, a 30-year-old female of Livingston, is charged with one count of fraud and additional charges forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. • Dana Turner, 33, of Livingston is charged with four counts of fraud and additional charged forwarded to the District Attorney’s office. • Jeremy Valderez, 34, of Livingston, is charged with one count of fraud and additional charges forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. • Tara Hancock Postel, 32, of Livingston is charged with two counts of fraud and additional charges forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. • Mack Graham, 39, of Nacogdoches, is charged with four counts of fraud. • Shannon Cain, 33, of Livingston is charged with three counts of fraud and additional charges forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. • Jerry Loper, 44, of Huntington, is charged with one count of fraud and additional charges forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. • Kelbi Peters Grubbs, 31, of Livingston is charged with two counts of fraud and additional charges forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. Lowrie advised that not all employees who worked at the doctor’s office or pharmacy were involved in any wrongdoing and assisted greatly in the investigation conducted by the sheriff’s office. Six of the nine subjects have been released from jail on bond. The remaining three are awaiting court appearances. Bond was set at the same amount for the fraud charges for which they were arrested. An ongoing investigation is continuing into the pharmacy and doctor’s office operations by agencies including the Board of Medical Examiners, the pharmacy board and the Drug Enforcement Agency.