Pharmacist sentenced for fraud

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WKBN) — A pharmacist from Salem was sentenced Thursday in federal court to two years in prison after previously pleading guilty to health care fraud.

Bruce E. Franken, 53, also was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution and will be on probation for three years. The case was handled by U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach for the Northern District of Ohio.

“This sentence sends an important message that there will be consequences for those that try to game programs such as Medicaid,” Dettelbach said. “Our office will continue to stamp out waste, fraud and abuse of all federal programs, particularly those that affect our health care system.”

Franken was excluded in 2003 from participating in all federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, for a minimum of 10 years as a result of his 2001 felony conviction for theft of drugs, according to court documents.

From May 14, 2009, through July 14, 2011, Franken worked as a pharmacist at J.H. Lease Pharmacy, 229 N. Ellsworth Ave. in Salem. He filled prescriptions for Medicaid recipients even though he knew he was excluded from participation in all federal health care programs, Dettelbach said in a news release.

As a result of Franken’s unauthorized and fraudulent claims, Medicaid was billed and subsequently paid these prescriptions that Franken was prohibited from providing in the amount of $301,550, according to court documents.

“This defendant filled these prescriptions with complete disregard for the law because he knew that he was legally prohibited from doing so,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Because of his previous crimes, he was not allowed to work with Medicaid recipients, and he had no right to completely ignore this restriction.”

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