Pair of Davidson County Women are Charged with TennCare Fraud

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | 12:53 pm

NASHVILLE – Two Davidson County women are charged separately with TennCare fraud for filling fraudulent prescriptions and using TennCare public healthcare insurance benefits to pay for them.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), along with Metro Nashville Police, announced the arrests of 31-year old Heather L. Watson, of Madison and Erin M. Banks, 24, of Joelton.

Watson has been charged with two counts of TennCare fraud, two counts of identity theft, one count of obtaining a controlled substance and one count of attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud.  She’s accused of presenting forged prescriptions for the painkiller Lortab, using TennCare to pay for them.  The prescriptions bore the name and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency control number of a physician, which she was not authorized to use.

The other woman, Erin Banks, is charged with seven counts of TennCare fraud and three counts of forgery.  The charges against Banks allege that on seven different occasions she altered legitimate prescriptions to obtain Vicodin – a form of the painkiller Hydrocodone – using TennCare to pay for the altered prescriptions.

“Prescription drug fraud takes many forms, and altering the prescription to add narcotics is one of those methods that pharmacists should keep a watchful eye for,” Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said. “We’re thankful pharmacists are catching this.”

TennCare fraud is a Class E felony, carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison per charge. Obtaining and attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud and identity theft are Class D felonies that carry a sentence of up to four years in prison per charge. District Attorney Victor “Tory” S. Johnson is prosecuting.

The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $3.5 million paid in restitution and recoupment to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of over $173 million for the TennCare program, according to latest figures.  To date, over 1,400 people have been charged with TennCare fraud.

Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program established by the Legislature, Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions.  Anyone can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll-free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to www.tn.gov/tnoig and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."