The United States military was reportedly robbed by a pharmacist who filled fake prescriptions as part of a scheme to defraud the military health care plan Tricare. The 42-year-old pharmacist, Mai Trang Nguyen, was working in Southern California and is looking at 15 years in prison and currently remains behind bars as she appeals her sentence.
Her sentence includes paying restitution to the health care plan after reportedly defrauding it by $11 million. Judge Otis Wright II was looking to be lenient on the mother of two and asked for a statement, which is a typical request when leniency is expected, but Nguyen would not speak despite her lawyer’s advice.
She was likely remaining quiet so that her statement, in which she would admit responsibility for her actions, would not undermine her future appeal. The defense argued that she was an innocent bystander who got wrapped up in the scheme of others, a scheme that she did not financially profit from.
But the prosecution disputed this claim, as did the judge, who reminded her lawyer that she was a “willing and active participant” that filled over a thousand fake prescriptions that were sent to Irvine Wellness Pharmacy. The marketers that sent the prescriptions then received about half of the reimbursements sent to the pharmacy from Tricare.
The prosecution argues that Nguyen was aware of the scheme and mentioned that multiple people within the same household were receiving the same medications as well as members of different populations. In one case, a 13-year-old boy was given the same medication as an elderly woman who was also Nguyen’s grandmother.
The pharmacist then attempted to obstruct an audit and falsify prescriptions to validate the fraud. Although her lawyer has tried to get her on bail while the appeal goes through, Wright has denied that request.