The owner of a chain of pharmacies may receive community service for fraudulently obtaining payments from the HSE’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service, a court has heard.
John Corr (55) was the owner of five pharmacies which made duplicate claims for reimbursement from the scheme, which is responsible for making payments to healthcare professionals, like GPs, dentists and pharmacists, for the free or reduced costs services they provide to the public.
Corr, of Vergemount Hall, Clonskeagh, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to seven counts of dishonestly inducing the HSE scheme to make a reimbursement at locations in County Dublin and County Louth on dates between July 15, 2016 and July 30, 2016.
Detective Garda Darren Hughes told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that duplicate claims were made by five pharmacies owned by Corr located in Clonskeagh and Clarehall in Co. Dublin and in Clogherhead, Blackbull and Mell in Co. Louth.
Det Gda Hughes said that duplicate claims occur when the same claim is made by more than one pharmacy in the same group. He said an investigation was launched after above average payments were noticed to the pharmacy in Mell.
All five pharmacies were inspected and found to have made duplicate claims. 94 patients were identified to have had duplicate claims made in relation to them in July 2016, including patients with Dublin addresses having had claims made on their behalf in Co Louth.
The total amount reimbursed on foot of duplicate claims was €8,075.37. The court heard that the amount of money the accused was charged with obtaining by deception was €3,988.79.
Det Gda Hughes agreed with Remy Farrell SC, defending, that full restitution had been made. He agreed with counsel that his client lost his community pharmacy contract with the HSE as a result of the offences.
Mr Farrell said his client was no longer in business as realistically a pharmacy cannot operate without a community pharmacy contract.
Counsel said he did not have a good reason for the offending of his client, saying that there may have been some perception by his client of underpayment in some other areas.
Mr Farrell said his client is a board member of a charity and has gone “above and beyond” in providing addiction services over the years. He said his client was supported in court by family members and employees.
Judge Martin Nolan said that “to say this is a perplexing case is an understatement”.
Judge Nolan said Corr had been a pharmacist for 31 years and by reason of his actions has lost his business. He said the court “is at a loss” why, at this point in his life, the accused did what he did.
He said Corr was in a position of trust and that the HSE is entitled to trust pharmacists to be honest in their dealings. He said the loss was “not substantial” in this case and that the accused was “lucky” the loss to the State was not more.
Judge Nolan said he intended to make an order that Corr complete 240 hours of community service in lieu of two-and-a-half years imprisonment. He adjourned the matter to June 23, next, in order to give the Probation Service time to assess whether Corr is suitable for community service.