Prescription fraud is a serious offense. If you are using fraudulent means to obtain prescriptions it can get you in some serious trouble with the law. You can face jail time, fines, and other penalties. A doctor committing prescription fraud could lose his or her license, face jail time, or pay fines.

This is not a charge to take lightly. It is a serious crime that can follow you for the rest of your life.

A prescription fraud conviction can affect your employment, if you can rent or purchase a home, and even how medical personnel interacts with you — even in an emergency. In short, you will be branded as a prescription drug abuser and any time you seek medical treatment, even if it is legitimate, will be met with suspicion.

This is not a charge that you want following you around forever.

When You Need Representation for a Prescription Fraud Charge, Experience is Everything

The “war on drugs” and, more recently the opioid crisis in this country has brought prescription fraud fully onto the radar. It is a hot topic for the public which means lawmakers, law enforcement, and prosecutors are pushing for convictions.

There is tremendous pressure for prescription fraud offenders to be arrested and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

If you are facing prescription fraud charges, don’t take chances by trying to handle them on your own. The Litvak Law Firm can help. 

Overview of Prescription Fraud Offenses

Prescription fraud comes in several forms, but essentially it is the act of misrepresenting yourself to a medical professional or pharmacist in order to obtain controlled substances from them. In other words, using deception to obtain prescriptions – usually controlled substances like pain medication. It also includes medical professionals who prescribe medications in ways that violate state and federal laws, especially for controlled substances.

Some of the ways a person can commit prescription fraud include:

  • Forging prescriptions (by stealing the doctor’s pad)
  • Using someone else’s identity to obtain a prescription
  • Creating fake prescriptions 
  • Buying drugs online via questionable sites
  • Changing the drug quantity on a legitimate prescription written by a doctor
  • Impersonating a medical professional to call in a prescription (and using their personal phone number for the confirmation number)
  • Visiting several doctors to get medications from each of them (doctor shopping)

A doctor or other medical professional may be charged with prescription fraud if they issue a prescription that is:

  • Outside of the doctor’s practice
  • For a medical reason that is not legitimate
  • Written without an exam or seeing the patient (controlled substances)

Depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction, a prescription fraud charge can be a misdemeanor or a felony.

Federal Prescription Fraud Offenses

Prescription fraud can be prosecuted as a state or federal offense. Under The Controlled Substances Act, it is a crime to obtain controlled substances via deceptive means or without a valid medical reason. There are several federal agencies involved in the oversight, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Crimes that involve prescription drugs are often turned over to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for prosecution simply because they involve controlled substances and due to the extensive regulations that govern prescription medications. Other reasons that prescription fraud is prosecuted at the federal level are because:

  • The accused was arrested or investigated by a federal agency
  • The substance was an opioid 
  • The crime involved health care providers or practices
  • The allegations are substantial 
  • The crime crossed state lines or across the border
  • The local or state government lacks the necessary resources to prosecute

New York Prescription Fraud Offenses

Article 178 of the New York Penal Code Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions covers the crime of prescription fraud.

A criminal diversion act, under New York law, is an act or acts that a person knowingly:

  • Transfers or delivers a prescription medication or device in exchange for something of pecuniary value and they know or have reasonable grounds to believe that the person receiving the medication does not have a medical need for it
  • Receives a prescription medication in exchange for something of pecuniary value and they know or have reasonable grounds to believe that the person selling or transferring it does not have legal authorization to sell or transfer that prescription
  • Transfers or delivers a prescription (written, called in, or electronically transmitted) in exchange for something of pecuniary value
  • Receives a prescription in exchange for something of pecuniary value

There are four degrees of prescription fraud in New York:

  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Fourth Degree – Commits a criminal diversion act.
  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Third Degree – Commits a criminal diversion act:
    • Value of the benefit exchanged exceeds $1,000 
    • Commits Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the fourth degree and has been convicted of the same crime in the fourth degree previously
  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Second Degree –Commits a criminal diversion act: and the value of the benefit exchanged exceeds $3,000
  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the First Degree –Commits a criminal diversion act and the value of the benefit exchanged exceeds $50,000

Fraud and Deceit Related to Controlled Substances also cover prescription fraud.

  • No person shall willfully
    • Attempt to obtain or obtain a prescription for a controlled substance, a controlled substance, or an official New York State prescription form
      • By deceit, fraud, subterfuge, or misrepresentation
      • By concealing a material fact
      • By using a false name or providing a false address
    • Make a false statement in any order, prescription, report, application, or record that is required by Article 33 of the Public Health Law of New York
    • Falsely represent themselves as or assume the title of a licensed pharmacist, distributor, practitioner, manufacturer, researcher, pharmacy, owner or employee of a registered outsourcing facility, institutional dispenser, or any other authorized person for the purpose of obtaining a controlled substance
    • Utter or make any forged or false prescription or written order
    • Affix any forged or false label to a container, receptacle, or package containing controlled substances
    • Affix or imprint a forged or false symbol or code number to any controlled substance
  • Possession of a forged or false prescription for a controlled substance by any person other than a pharmacist acting in their official capacity shall be presumptive evidence of that person’s intent to use such document as a means of illegally obtaining a controlled substance
  • Possession of a blank official New York state prescription form by any person other than someone it has been lawfully issued to shall be presumptive evidence of that person’s intent to use such document as a means of illegally obtaining a controlled substance.
  • Any person who is prescribed a controlled substance, given a controlled substance, or is given a prescription for a controlled substance during their treatment by one practitioner and attempts to deceive by failing to disclose the fact and is prescribed a controlled substance, given a controlled substance, or is given a prescription for a controlled substance by another practitioner has violated this law

Penalties for Federal Prescription Fraud Offenders

Most federal drug charges have mandatory minimum penalties but they do not apply to prescription fraud. Typically, if the number of pills or quantity of drugs is high then the sentencing will be harsher. If there is a death or serious injury as a result, the penalties are even more severe.

Prison is a common penalty and often exceeds ten years. However, they can be less depending on the circumstances. Fines may also be included. Schedule III and Schedule IV drugs carry harsher penalties than Schedule V drugs.

Penalties for Prescription Fraud Offenders in New York

Depending on the class of controlled substance involved in the prescription fraud and other factors, a person could face charges ranging from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class felony. This can mean imprisonment as well as fines. If the offender has been convicted of the crime in the past, their sentence will be more severe.

A Class A misdemeanor in New York carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1000. If the accused gained from the crime, that fine amount is doubled.

Possession of prescription drugs that are not yours or were obtained unlawfully or by deceit can carry a felony charge. If the prescription was not written to you, even if it was written for a member of your family. If you give your prescription drugs to a friend or even someone related to you, that is a felony as well.

This covers both individuals and physicians. New York takes drug crimes very seriously.

  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Fourth Degree – Class A Misdemeanor – Maximum 1 year in jail
  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Third Degree – Class E Felony – Maximum 4 years in state prison
  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Second Degree –Class D Felony – Maximum 7 years in prison
  • Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the First Degree –Class C Felony – Maximum 15 years in prison

Prescription Fraud Defenses

An experienced, knowledgeable New York criminal attorney will carefully review your case to determine the best defense for your specific situation. Some prescription fraud defenses include:

  • Acted in good faith (statutory defense) – as a physician or pharmacist, you had no reason to believe that the prescription was fake or as an individual you had no reason to believe your prescription was fake.
  • Does the prosecutor have adequate proof to convict you?
  • Was the evidence obtained legally?
  • Was the medication that was received or sold is a controlled substance?
  • Were you subject to illegal search and seizure?
  • Was there a defect in the search warrant?

Your defense depends on the circumstances of your charges and the investigation. Your attorney will review all the information to develop the best defense possible for your specific case.

Prescription fraud charges are serious, and they put you directly in the bull’s eye of the prosecutor because of all the focus on the drug war and opioid crisis in the United States today. However, it is the job of the prosecutor to prove that you are guilty. A prescription fraud lawyer will provide a defense while holding the prosecution accountable for their allegations and actions. They will challenge any discrepancies regarding the evidence – how it was obtained, how substantial it is, and if it truly implicates you in the crime.

If you are facing a prescription fraud charge, you need an attorney who will work hard for you and protect your rights at every step of your case. They will act in your best interest to get you the best outcome possible.

You need the Litvak Law Firm. Call the New York attorney who will fight for you, dial 718-989-2908 now. Your initial phone consultation is free. Don’t try to handle your case on your own. Make sure your rights are protected, and you have solid legal representation.