|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
CONTACT: LOLA POTTER
NASHVILLE, TN - A Springfield woman is charged with multiple counts of using the identity of a medical doctor, family members and other people in order to forge prescriptions for drugs and then use TennCare to pay for them.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG), in a joint investigation with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) today announced the arrest of Ann Margaret Choate, 30, of Springfield. The arrest is her third round of TennCare fraud charges.
Most recently, Choate is charged with two counts of TennCare fraud, one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, and ten counts of identity theft. The charges include a case where Choate presented a forged prescription bearing a doctor’s name and identifying information without his authority in an attempt to gain possession of the painkiller Lortab. According to the indictment, Choate knowingly obtained the use of personal identifying information of various individuals, without their consent, to commit unlawful acts.
Choate was earlier arrested in a Sumner County case where she was accused of 11 counts of obtaining drugs by fraud, nine counts of forgery, one count of identity theft, and three counts of TennCare fraud. She was employed for a time at a doctor’s office, where investigators say she took a prescription pad from the office, writing multiple prescriptions for Lortab with refills. Her first arrest was in November of last year when she was charged with two counts of TennCare fraud for presenting forged prescriptions for Lortab.
“Medical providers, local law enforcement, and state agencies no longer tolerate this kind of blatant abuse of the TennCare program, especially when it relates to addictive prescription painkillers,” Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said.
TennCare fraud is a Class E felony, carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison per charge. The other charges are Class D felonies, carrying up to four years in prison per charge. District Attorney Victor S. Johnson is prosecuting.
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, over 1,600 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."