Pharmacist in Louisiana sentenced for skimming drugs from vets’ prescriptions

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U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph, flanked by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Allison D. Bushnell (right) and Brian Flanagan, who prosecuted the case

SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A 44-year-old Shreveport pharmacist today was sentenced to a year in federal prison followed by a year of supervised probation, after her January conviction on drug charges, according to U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph.

In January, a federal jury convicted Melissa Richardson on 15 counts of acquiring a controlled substance following a week-long trial.

According to evidence presented during trial, on June 9, 2017, Richardson, a licensed pharmacist, who was formerly employed with the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Shreveport, 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.

The video footage then showed her verify that the prescriptions were correct in the VAMC’s computer system, seal the bottles, place them in sealed envelopes, and drop them in a bin for mail-out. 

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

“Combatting the opioid epidemic is one of our nation’s most critical law enforcement and public health initiatives,” said U.S. Attorney 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.

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