Put On Your Thinking Cap

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How would you like to have your IQ published in a national newspaper for all to see? If your score was in an above average range, you may not mind. Today’s fraudster is a Florida oncologist whose IQ is in the normal or average range, but her lack of common sense was evident when she engaged in a scheme to treat her patients with non-approved drugs from out of the country. She also committed Medicare Fraud by billing as if the drugs were procured from the U.S. and approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). (Obviously, she did not put on her thinking cap before stealing more than $800,000 in Medicare funds and putting her patients’ lives at risk.)

The now disgraced former Palm Harbor doctor was essentially a drug smuggler disguised as an oncologist. She administered at least $700,000 of the foreign-label cancer drugs to 66 of her unsuspecting patients. (She billed Medicare as if these illicit medications obtained from the United Kingdom and Canada were higher priced U.S. versions.)

During the trial, the oncologist stated that she thought the drugs were essentially the same as the FDA-approved versions, explaining that if they had been counterfeit, the effects would have been noticeable. (Thankfully, none of the patients appeared to have been harmed by the unapproved drugs; however, one woman wondered if her mother would have lived longer if she had received treatment with FDA-approved medication.)

The doctor also claimed that if she had known the drugs were not FDA-approved, she would have ceased purchasing and administering the drugs. (She blamed it on her office manager who handled most of the paperwork related to the drug purchases.) Interestingly enough, an FDA agent had previously visited her medical practice, subpoenaed her business records, and instructed her to stop buying foreign, unapproved drugs. (She did not obey his warning and continued the scheme.)

When all else fails, pull a witness that certifies that you didn’t know what you were doing. (Even though you did.) A psychologist took the witness stand and stated that the doctor had an average IQ, not in the high or superior range like most doctors. (No one wants an intelligently inferior doctor. Ever. Perhaps docs should put up an IQ certificate beside their medical degree and certification plaques on the wall.) The witness also determined that the oncologist had a “mild neurocognitive disorder” which could have been brought on by a medically induced come from a previous back surgery. (Yikes! And let’s just go ahead and add in that she had a compulsive and dependent personality style.)

Ironically, the defense attorney explained that his client was a detailed person that often missed the big picture. (So, if this is true, then wouldn’t she have caught the illegal drug and billing issue? I think she needed a better lawyer.) The prosecutors said her motivation was greed and that she bought the less expensive foreign drugs to save money.

After a jury trial that convicted her of receipt and delivery of misbranded drugs, smuggling goods in to the U.S., healthcare fraud and mail fraud, the former doctor cried through her lengthy statement and apologized to the victims of her crimes. (Interestingly enough, she said that her patients were the most important things in her life and she would never intentionally harm anyone. Hmmm. Her actions that put her patients at risk proved otherwise.) The judge sentenced her to nearly six years in prison, although she remains free on bond pending the appeal of her conviction. (The judge did not buy the argument that none of her patients were harmed, noting that cancer patients are vulnerable.)

Because of her illegal actions, the former Florida doctor relinquished her medical license and will pay $848,671 in restitution for her Medicare fraud scheme. When pronouncing her sentence, the judge said that the doctor had violated her patients’ trust. (I’ll say.) While the oncologist is waiting on her appeal, she may want to invest in a thinking cap to help her carefully and seriously consider the illegal actions she committed so as not to make any more unintelligent decisions that put other lives at risk.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Palm Harbor oncologist gets nearly six years in prison for smuggling chemo drugs from overseaspublished by the Tampa Bay Times on August 4, 2017.

TAMPA — A disgraced former Palm Harbor doctor who bought discounted foreign-label cancer drugs without government approval and used them on unsuspecting patients was sentenced Friday to nearly six years in prison.

Dr. Diana Anda Norbergs wept through a lengthy statement in front of U.S. District Judge James Moody. She apologized to her patients, 66 of whom were deemed to be victims of her crimes.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.