Government, Health Care, and Law

Pharmacists plead guilty in $80M scam

February 23, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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Two pharmacists have pleaded guilty in an illegal drug re-stocking and re-dispensing scheme.

Kim Mulder, former CEO of Kentwood Pharmacy, and Charles Brooks, a pharmacist at Kentwood Pharmacy’s facility in Alma, issued their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker to charges related to illegal restocking and re-dispensing of recycled drugs at Kentwood Pharmacy, according to The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids on Friday.

The guilty pleas are the most recent in a string of more than 18 convictions involving Kentwood Pharmacy, which was accused of recycling drugs.

“The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act provides an essential regulatory framework to safeguard the public’s use of prescription drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles, Jr. “These federal regulations are buttressed by explicit state laws, which strictly limit the reuse of drugs which have left the control of pharmacies.”

Recent charges

Mulder also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud based on billing Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans for misbranded and adulterated drugs. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Brooks pleaded guilty to misbranding prescription drugs that had been dispensed and returned to the pharmacy’s stock. Brooks could see up to three years in prison.

$80-million scheme

Eighteen people have been convicted of criminal offenses stemming from activity at Kentwood Pharmacy. The convictions include six felonies linked to licensed pharmacists.

The drugs recycled by Kentwood Pharmacy include cross-contaminated drugs, drugs with foreign substances and residues and drugs that were discolored and beyond their expiration dates.

In December, Jonker sentenced Kentwood Pharmacy’s former VP of sales, Richard Clarke, to 14 years in prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and on a separate charge of possession of child pornography.

The same month, Jonker sentenced pharmacist Lawrence Harden to six years for his involvement in a conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

All told, Jonker found that public and private insurers paid more than $80 million for adulterated and misbranded drugs. Clarke and Harden are responsible for restitution amounts of more than $8 million and $6 million.

Multi-agency investigation

Investigating agencies included the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Internal Revenue Service.

“The public must be able to rely on pharmacists who have both professional and statutory duties to ensure that pharmacies operate in compliance with these federal and state laws regulating the handling, packaging and distribution of drugs,” Miles said.

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