Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sara Elicia Garza Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Commit Health Care Fraud


MCALLEN, TX—Sara Elicia Garza, 55, of Mission, Texas, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Garza is a pharmacist and the owner and operator of Sara’s Pharmacy and Gift Corner located in Mission.

Garza pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud at a hearing held earlier today before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. At that hearing, 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—medications were never provided or dispensed, the beneficiary had never seen the physician purporting to prescribe the medication, prescription medications were written for the treatment of medical conditions that the beneficiary did not have, claims were for refills of prescription medications authorized by a physician but which the beneficiary did not request and did not receive, and/or that 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 her co-defendant, Valerie Flores, 38, also of Mission, along with other unindicted co-conspirators, forged prescriptions, doctors’ signatures on prescriptions, patients’ signatures on logs that purportedly indicated that a customer beneficiary had received medications, and altered pharmacy records. Flores previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud on Dec. 16, 2011, and is scheduled for sentencing April 5, 2012.

Garza faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine plus up to three years of post-prison supervised release. Her sentencing hearing is set for April 16, 2012. Garza was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing, at which time the court will also decide the amount of restitution to be ordered in the matter.

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