|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2009
CONTACT: LOLA POTTER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Knox County man is accused of using TennCare benefits to pay for forged prescription drugs in a scheme that involved his sister, a pharmacy employee who has also been arrested in the case.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Knox County Sheriff’s Department today announced the arrest of Christopher B. Harris, 27, and his sister Jessica L. Hamlet, 22. In a separate case, a woman was accused of using TennCare benefits to pay for fraudulent prescription drugs.
“We are working with local police and providers across the state to help us get this kind of activity out of the TennCare program,” Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said. “We’re committed to eliminating the crime of fraudulently obtaining drugs and letting TennCare pick up the tab – and local police departments and healthcare providers are committed to the effort as well.”
Christopher Harris was indicted on seven counts of TennCare fraud and seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. He’s accused of pretending to be a physician’s office employee in calling a local pharmacy with prescription orders. When Harris called in the prescriptions, it was his sister – a technician at the pharmacy – who took the calls.
Harris ordered prescriptions for himself for Tramadol, a drug for chronic pain, with unlimited refills. The fraudulent prescription refills were paid for by TennCare. His sister, Jessica Hamlet, was charged in a criminal complaint with TennCare fraud for assisting Harris in the illegal and fraudulent conduct.
In an unrelated case, 24-year old Misty K. Wasike of Knoxville was charged with one count of TennCare fraud. Wasike is accused of altering a valid prescription for the painkiller Lortab by increasing it from 120 to 220 tablets. Wasike has been charged with one count of TennCare fraud, and one count of attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud.
Penalties for the TennCare fraud charges against all three individuals include up to two years imprisonment per charge for the TennCare fraud charge. District Attorney General Randall Nichols will be prosecuting all three cases.
The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $2.6 million paid in restitution and recoupment to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of over $159 million for the TennCare program, according to latest figures.
Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program established by the Legislature, Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions. "Anyone can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll-free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to www.tncarefraud.tennessee.gov and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."