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Pharmacist sentenced to prison for stealing veterans' meds

Posted at 1:21 PM, Jul 13, 2020

A former VA pharmacist was sentenced to a year in prison for stealing meds from her patients.

Melissa W. Richardson, 44, of Shreveport, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter to serve one year in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release, for stealing controlled substances from mail-out prescriptions.

Richardson was found guilty on January 17, 2020, by a federal jury in Shreveport, of 15 counts of acquiring a controlled substance by fraud, following a one-week trial.

According to evidence presented during trial, on June 9, 2017, Richardson, a licensed pharmacist, was employed with the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center (VAMC) when she stole various quantities of Hydrocodone out of individual prescription bottles as she verified mail-out prescriptions meant for veterans.

The prescriptions at issue had been prepared by a pharmacy technician and were awaiting a second count and verification from Richardson. Video surveillance from inside the VAMC controlled substances vault showed Richardson slipping the pills into her pocket as she counted the prescriptions. In multiple instances, she slipped pills into her pocket before the pills were counted. Video footage showed her then verify that the prescription was correct in the VAMC’s computer system, seal the bottle, place it in a sealed envelope, and drop it in a bin for mail-out.

When federal agents confronted Richardson, she had 236 loose pills in her pocket.

“Combating the opioid epidemic is one of our nation’s most critical law enforcement and public health initiatives,” said U.S. Attorney David Joseph. “Pharmacists, such as the defendant here, are entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that opioids and other controlled substances are lawfully dispensed. Richardson abused this trust when she stole prescriptions for her own use. My office will continue to hold accountable those medical professionals who violate the law in dispensing controlled substances.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian C. Flanagan and Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison D. Bushnell prosecuted the case.