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Photo of Matt M. McClenahen

Prescription Drug Fraud: The “White Collar Crime” of the Drug World

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2013 | Uncategorized

A recent bust of a South Central Pennsylvania prescription drug ring by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is a perfect illustration of why prescription drug fraud is the “white collar crime” of the drug world. Prescription drug fraud often involves active participation by someone in the medical field, such as a physician, nurse or pharmacist, as they are the ones with legal access to prescription drugs. Street drugs like heroin, meth and cocaine, on the other hand, are primarily distributed by either traditional criminals in it for fast money, or pathetic addicts trying to finance their own addictions.

Dr. Claude Fanelli Jr. would allegedly sell pre-signed prescription forms to Donna Essis-Danfora at $1,000 per prescription. Ms. Essis-Danfora would then have runners fill these prescriptions in their names for oxycodone, a narcotic drug, which can be chopped up and snorted like heroin. Ms. Essis-Danfora would provide these names to Dr. Fanelli, so that he could vouch for these prescriptions when pharmacies called to verify the authenticity of the prescriptions. With so much regulation of prescription drugs, it is usually just a matter of time before those involved are caught, and that is exactly what happened in this case.

With so much to lose, one must cannot help but ask why medical professionals would yield to the temptation of criminal activity. They already have good incomes, and they risk losing their licenses, in addition to severe criminal penalties. In Dr. Fannelli’s case, he apparently had a gambling addiction, according to the Attorney General’s Office. In other cases, medical professionals engage in prescription fraud or pill swiping to feed their own addictions.

In my experience, medical professionals who run afoul of the law tend to be strong candidates for rehabilitation. These are people who managed to get through medical, pharmacy or nursing school, and were usually successful for many years, before starting down a dangerous path. Usually, such people tend to respond better to substance abuse treatment or other therapy than drug offenders who have never had a solid work history or educational background. That being said, the defendants in this case cannot expect to be let go with a mere slap on the wrist, given the large size of their operation.

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Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA. He has extensive experience defending those charged with drug offenses.

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