FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: LOLA POTTER
NASHVILLE, TN – A Cocke County woman is charged for a third time with doctor shopping, or going to multiple doctors to obtain the same or similar controlled substances and using TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, as payment.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the arrest of 20-year old Diamond Pearl Ahrens, of Newport. A Cocke County indictment accuses her of three counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance by doctor shopping, with TennCare paying for the physician visits. The Cocke County Sheriff’s Office assisted in Ahrens’s arrest.
Just last month, Ahrens was arrested for doctor shopping in Sevier County, obtaining prescriptions for the painkillers Hydrocodone and Tramadol. And she was charged in September of last year in Greene County with two counts of doctor shopping. In both instances, investigators say TennCare paid for either the physician office visits or the prescriptions.
“This type of criminal activity is unacceptable to both law enforcement and healthcare providers,” Inspector General Deborah Faulkner said. “Individuals involved in TennCare fraud, especially prescription drug diversion, should know that law enforcement officers across the state are gathering evidence in these cases and prosecuting to the full extent.”
TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years per charge in prison. District Attorney General James Dunn will be prosecuting the Cocke County case.
The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $3.5 million paid in restitution and recoupment to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of over $173 million for the TennCare program, according to latest figures. To date, 2,055 people have been charged with TennCare fraud.
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.tn.gov/tnoig/ and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."