Two Florida pharmacy techs arrested on fraud charges

December 30, 2008

Two pharmacy technicians in Miami were recently arrested on charges of Medicaid fraud. Keep reading to learn more.

Two pharmacy technicians in Miami were recently arrested on charges of Medicaid fraud. According to the charges, Ariel Sanchez and Pablo Mercade used their positions as pharmacy technicians at a local Walgreens store to fraudulently bill the Florida Medicaid Program nearly $3,000 for prescription medications that patients neither needed nor received.

Sanchez and Mercade were taken into custody by law enforcement personnel with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and Miami-Dade warrant officers. These latest charges come on the heels of the announcement from Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson that their combined efforts prevented more than $100 million in Medicaid overpayments over the past three years.

During fiscal year 2007-2008, the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit recovered more than $56.7 million, which includes court judgments, fines, and civil penalties. In September, the state said it recovered more than $1.5 million as part of a settlement with Walgreens, which paid the federal government, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota $9.9 million to resolve allegations the company falsely billed the Medicaid program.

Acting on information received from Walgreens, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit began investigating Sanchez, 30, and Mercade, 25. Investigators believed the two used their positions at the pharmacy to create phony refills for valuable and frequently abused medications, including Xanax, Vicodin, and testosterone injections.

After creating the refills, they billed the Medicaid program for reimbursement and sold the drugs for profit on the black market. Audits and interviews of many recipients, doctors, and family members indicated that certain prescriptions were neither prescribed to some Walgreens patients nor received by them.

If convicted, both Sanchez and Mercade face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.