Mission Pharmacy Owner and Former Technician Sentenced to Federal Prison
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 29, 2012|
MCALLEN, TX—Sara Elicia Garza, 56, and Valerie Jean Flores 39, both of Mission, have been sentenced to federal prison for conspiring to defraud the Texas Medicaid/Vendor Drug program, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Garza was a pharmacist and the owner and operator of Sara’s Pharmacy and Gift Corner and employed Flores as a senior pharmacist technician. The pharmacy closed on or about October 28, 2011.
Garza and Flores were charged with conspiring to defraud the Texas Medicaid/Vendor Drug program and other health care offenses. Both pleaded guilty at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane to conspiring to commit health care fraud.
Today, Judge Crane ordered Garza to spend 24 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, followed by three years of supervised release. Garza was also ordered to pay restitution of $440,708.42 to the Texas Medicaid/Vendor Drug program, Medicare, Humana, Caremark, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Garza has paid already the sum of$437,000 toward the restitution she was ordered to pay. Flores was sentenced to 18 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, also followed by three years of supervised release.
In July 2011, agents from the FBI and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Texas Attorney General’s Office executed a federal search warrant and seized documents and computers at Sarah’s Pharmacy and Gift Store.
Garza admitted she participated in the conspiracy to defraud the Texas Medicaid/Vendor Drug program by submitting false and fraudulent claims for prescription medication that was not dispensed or provided. Specifically, Garza admitted the claims were false and fraudulent for one or more of a variety of reasons—(1) medications were never provided or dispensed; (2) the beneficiary had never seen the physician purporting to prescribe the medication; (3) prescription medications were written for the treatment of medical conditions that the beneficiary did not have; (4) claims were for refills of prescription medications authorized by a physician but which the beneficiary did not request and did not receive; and (5) the prescription medications were never dispensed to beneficiaries but were billed (referred to as “running extras” by Garza and her co-conspirators) in lieu of collecting co-pay for prescriptions that were actually dispensed or in lieu of collecting money for purchases from the Sara’s Pharmacy Gift Store.
Garza also admitted that to cover up the fraud and conspiracy she and Flores, along with other unindicted co-conspirators, forged prescriptions, doctors’ signatures on prescriptions and patients’ signatures on logs that purportedly indicated that a customer beneficiary had received medications and also altered pharmacy records.
At her plea hearing, Flores admitted she participated in the conspiracy to defraud the Texas Medicaid/Vendor Drug program by submitting false and fraudulent claims for prescription medication that was not dispensed or provided and to her role in the cover-up.
Judge Crane allowed the women to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons, where they will begin serving their sentences.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Casey N. MacDonald and Special Assistant United States Attorney Rex G. Beasley prosecuted the case.