A woman admitted calling the Walla Walla VA for refills of her father’s pain pills a year after he died.
Karen McAuliffe initially tried to claim that her father was still alive and she was caring for him, according to court documents.
However, when federal investigators confronted her with a death certificate, McAuliffe confessed that the hydrocodone/acetaminophen pills were for her personal use, documents said.
She pleaded guilty this week in Richland’s U.S. District Court to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, misrepresentation, deception and subterfuge.
Two additional charges for the same crime will be dismissed at her sentencing March 5.
The felony charge can bring up to four years in a federal prison, though prosecutors said they will recommend three years of probation.
McAuliffe is free to argue for less time.
“I’m not telling you I may give you probation, I may give you prison, but that’s what it looks like the parties are agreeing to,” said Senior Judge Ed Shea.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Shea can divert from the recommendation and it will not be grounds for McAuliffe to withdraw her plea.
McAuliffe was indicted April 3 by a federal grand jury on the three charges.
Court documents show that her father was a veteran who received medical benefits from the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Walla Walla. He died in September 2016.
McAuliffe “continued to misrepresent” to the medical center that her father was alive and needed the refills, documents said.
The VA’s Office of Inspector General started investigating McAuliffe after discovering her conduct.
A year after he died, she placed a refill order for 168 pills of the addictive opioid. She was confronted by an investigator in October 2017, when she went to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, court documents said.
The agent showed McAuliffe her father’s death certificate, and said they had documents and audio and video recordings to show the fraud and deception.
The 168 pills were seized by the agent after the interview, documents said.
Judge Shea, in taking McAuliffe’s guilty plea, asked what she said on the phone call to the VA pharmacy.
“That basically my father needed a refill on his medication,” McAuliffe replied.
“And so you asked them to send you the refill, which was the 168 tablets of hydrocodone/acetaminophen. And in fact you knew that was false, that your father was dead and that he didn’t need those. Is that correct?” asked Shea.
“Yes, your honor,” McAuliffe told the judge.
© 2018 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)
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