|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, APRIL 7, 2011
CONTACT: LOLA POTTER
NASHVILLE –A North Carolina man is in custody after being on the run for the past 12 months while he was wanted for trading drugs paid for by TennCare public healthcare insurance for crystal methamphetamine.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the arrest of Jason Eldred, 30, of Carter County. He was a fugitive hiding in North Carolina until he was picked up in Unicoi County, Tennessee, for unrelated drug charges and then transferred to the Johnson County jail, where he was served with the indictment.
A Johnson County Grand Jury indicted Eldred a year ago, along with co-defendants Colleen Stevens and Kelly Tester, both of Elizabethton. Stevens and Tester were both arrested last April. Stevens was charged with three counts of TennCare fraud for diverting a portion of her Claritin-D prescription, paid for by TennCare, in exchange for crystal methamphetamine. Both Eldred and Tester were each charged with three counts of TennCare fraud for obtaining Steven’s prescription of Claritin-D in exchange for the manufacture of crystal methamphetamine.
"Using TennCare to obtain drugs to exchange for other illegal substances is an affront to the TennCare program as well as the taxpayers of Tennessee,” Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said. “We’re maximizing our efforts to catch and prosecute those who are committing these types of crime.”
The TennCare fraud charge against Eldred could result in a two year sentence per charge, if convicted. District Attorney General Anthony Clark 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 1,400 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."