Pharmacist (72) remanded for sentence after pleading guilty to €70,000 fraud

Court hears pharmacist has repaid money to HSE after scam at two pharmacies

A Cork pharmacist has been remanded for sentencing after pleading guilty to 21 counts of theft and fraud.

The 72-year-old stole €70,000 from the HSE in an elaborate scheme involving falsifying drug payment scheme claims.

Christine Crowley of Main Street, Drimoleague, Co Cork pleaded guilty to the 21 sample counts, from a total of 174 charges, which followed a four-year investigation by gardaí into the falsification of claims under the Drug Payment Scheme/Long Term Illness Scheme operated by the HSE.

The sample charges, which related to periods between 2004 and 2009, saw Crowley make claims totalling more than €1.1 million, but most of these were legitimate, with Crowley obtaining some €70,000 of this through fraudulent claims made through two pharmacies she owned.

The state alleges in 15 of the sample charges that Crowley obtained the money by dishonestly inducing a HSE employee to pay over money by making fraudulent claims under the Drugs Payment Scheme/Long Term Illness Scheme at Kerr's Pharmacy and Crowley's Pharmacy in Dunmanway.

Crowley also pleaded guilty to six further sample charges of falsifying the patient medical records of three named patients under the Drugs Payment Scheme on various dates between January and May 2009, resulting in her obtaining over €750 in sums ranging from €97 to €189,

No details were given at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday on the exact nature of the fraud, but prosecution counsel Alice Fawsitt SC revealed that the €70,000 stolen from the HSE had been recouped once the crime had come to light.

The HSE had allowed Crowley to continue to dispense medicines from her two pharmacies, but made no payments on subsequent claims under the Drug Payment Scheme for a period of 13 months until the stolen €70,000 had been recouped.

Defence counsel Jim O’Mahony SC applied for an adjournment to allow him obtain a medical report from Crowley’s GP and he told the court that her guilty pleas had saved the state the expense of a lengthy and complex trial on 174 charges involving 184 witnesses and some 1,500 exhibits.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain granted the application to allow the defence obtain a medical report on Crowley and he remanded her on continuing bail to appear again at Cork Circuit Criminal Court for sentence on March 3rd.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times