|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 2010
CONTACT: LOLA POTTER
DAVIDSON CO. WOMAN CONVICTED, AFTER TENNCARE FRAUD CHARGES
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Davidson County woman has been charged twice with TennCare fraud and other charges, and now she’s been convicted for identity theft in connection with the charges. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the conviction of Charity Watts, 30, of Greenbrier.
Watts was arrested most recently in September 2009, when she was charged with one count of TennCare fraud, one count of identity theft, two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and one count of theft of services. The charges stemmed from allegations that on two separate occasions, Watts attempted to obtain the painkiller hydrocodone, using the identity of another person and their TennCare benefits.
Watts was earlier arrested in April 2006 and charged with obtaining a scheduled drug, TennCare fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to the arrest report, a juvenile was at the scene during Watts’ attempt to fill a forged prescription. When the juvenile was apprehended along with Watts and advised of her rights, the juvenile stated that she observed Watts write out the prescription before they entered the pharmacy, and that Watts paid the juvenile $70 to use her TennCare benefits to fill the prescription. A pharmacy tech called the OIG during the attempt and delayed the two until the OIG and other officers could respond.
Watts pleaded guilty to identity theft, a Class D felony, and was sentenced to three and a half years in a state correctional facility.
“We’ve worked with pharmacists across the state to help them identify TennCare fraud and work with us in bringing a stop to this crime as much as possible,” Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said. “Tennessee pharmacies are on the frontlines of the war against TennCare fraud, and they’ve stepped up to help us win it.”
The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $2.5 million paid in restitution and recoupment to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of over $171 million for the TennCare program, according to latest figures. To date, over 1,100 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."