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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2014

 
CONTACT: LOLA POTTER
615.532.8560 (OFFICE)

    
     

FOUR CHARGED IN WILSON COUNTY WITH TENNCARE DRUG FRAUD

NASHVILLE, TN – Four people are charged with TennCare fraud in Wilson County in connection with selling prescription drugs that were paid for by the state’s TennCare program.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the arrests, which were the result of a joint investigation with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.

The four arrested are all from Lebanon and all charged with reselling a portion of their drugs to an informant:

  • Donna Hawkes, age 50, charged with two counts of TennCare fraud and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud;
  • Starr Perry, 29, charged with four counts of TennCare fraud and two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud;
  • Talisha Smith, 35, charged with four counts of TennCare fraud, and fraudulent obtaining Schedule IV and Schedule II controlled substances; and,
  • Nathaniel Gipson, 35, charged with two counts of TennCare fraud and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

The drugs involved include the painkillers Percocet, Oxymorphone, Oxycodone, Morphine and Roxicodone, as well as the anti-anxiety medication Alprozolam.

“The drugs involved in the case are strong prescription medications that, in the wrong hands, can be deadly,” Inspector General Deborah Faulkner said.  “We are committed to preserving TennCare for healthcare purposes and eliminating this kind of abuse.”

TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison, and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud is a Class D felony, punishable by two to four years in prison. District Attorney General Tom P. Thompson 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, 2,116 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."