AG Schneiderman Announces Arrests Of Two North Country Nurses Who Stole & Forged Controlled Substance Prescriptions

AG's I-STOP Legislation Will Prevent Future Fraud & Abuse of Painkillers

Schneiderman: We Will Aggressively Prosecute Those Who Use Their Positions To Defraud The Medicaid System

 

PLATTSBURGH--Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of Ann Witt, 38, of Ellenburg Center, a Licensed Practical Nurse practicing at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, for using her position to steal blank prescriptions and forge the prescriptions to obtain Hydrocodone and Xanax from various pharmacies throughout the Plattsburgh area.  The Office of the Attorney General also arrested Wendy Therrian, 35, of Altona, also a Licensed Practical Nurse, for stealing Oxycodone pills from the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.  

Witt’s ability to fill multiple forged prescriptions for controlled substances at various pharmacies in a short period of time is an example of what the newly passed bill creating the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing (I-STOP) is designed to prevent.

“This example of fraud and abuse is just one of the reasons why my office spearheaded the effort to pass I-STOP, and highlights how we will aggressively prosecute those who use their positions to defraud the Medicaid system," said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Both of these nurses used their positions for their own personal gain, and now they will be held accountable.  My office will continue to aggressively combat the prescription drug crisis with every tool at our disposal.” 

Introduced in June of 2011 by Attorney General Schneiderman, I-STOP is an online database that enables doctors and pharmacists to report and track controlled narcotics in real time. I-STOP will vastly enhance the effectiveness of the present system. Its goal is to enable doctors and pharmacists to provide prescription pain medications, and other controlled substances, to patients who truly need them. At the same time, it will arm them with the necessary data to detect potentially dangerous drug interactions, identify patterns of abuse and/or fraud by patients, doctors, nurses and pharmacists, help those who suffer from crippling addictions and prevent potential addiction before it starts.

According to the felony complaint, from August 2010 through February 2011, Witt had access to blank prescriptions and used her position as a nurse to steal them from the physicians she worked closely with.  Witt forged the blank prescriptions to include her own name, drug and quantity and presented the prescriptions to different pharmacies throughout the city of Plattsburgh.  In less than six months, Witt obtained over 1,500 pills for Hydrocodone and Xanax by forging a total of 16 stolen prescriptions.  Witt presented the forged prescriptions on 12 different dates and at a total of five different pharmacies. 

It was not until one pharmacy called Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital to verify the authenticity of a prescription presented that the forgeries by Witt were discovered. 

Witt was charged with 16 counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the second degree, a class D Felony, Forgery in the second degree, a class D Felony, and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the seventh degree, a class A misdemeanor. Witt faces a maximum of ten to 20 years in state prison.

Witt was arraigned in Plattsburgh City Court before the Honorable Mark Rogers and entered a plea of not guilty.

According to the other felony complaint filed today, Therrian allegedly took two 5mg Oxycodone pills from the PYXIS machine during each hospital shift from about January 2011 to December 29, 2011.  Therrian admitted to using the computer PYXIS machine to create temporary user accounts under the name of a resident.  She further admitted that she created temporary user accounts in order to remove Oxycodone pills prescribed for a resident for her personal use.

Therrian was charged with Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony; Computer Tampering in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor; Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, a class A misdemeanor;  and Petit Larceny, a class A misdemeanor. Therrian faces a max of 1 1/3 to four years in state prison based on her felony charge.           

Therrian was arraigned in Plattsburgh City Court before the Honorable Mark Rogers and entered a plea of not guilty.

The charges in the criminal complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The investigation was conducted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Erin Lynch and Regional Director Kathleen Boland as well as Investigator Michael Connolly under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Diane Tuffey and Kelly L. Donovan, Chief of Investigations.  Monica J. Hickey-Martin is the Director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

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