West Cork pharmacist pleads guilty to €70k fraud

A West Cork pharmacist pleaded guilty to 20 sample counts from a 174-count indictment of fraud involving sums totalling more than €70,000 over several years.

Christine Crowley, aged 72, from Main St, Drimoleague, Co Cork, was arraigned at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday in relation to the offences at Kerr’s pharmacy on Main St, Dunmanway, Co Cork.

The case would have taken approximately five weeks or more had it gone to hearing.

However, defence senior counsel James O’Mahony said the accused could be arraigned yesterday on 20 sample counts on the indictment.

Mr O’Mahony asked if the accused could sit down rather than stand for her arraignment because of health issues. Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said the defendant could remain seated.

She then replied, “guilty”, to each of the 20 counts on the indictment.

Many of the charges followed the same wording, namely that in a monthly period at Kerr’s pharmacy, The Square, Dunmanway, she induced an official of the HSE to pay, for instance, €131,000, a fraudulent representation of the drug payment scheme/long term illness scheme monthly claim, with the intention of making a gain for yourself.

Other charges referred to the falsification of patient medical records in relation to medication dispensed in the sum of, for instance, €100, approximately.

Prosecution senior Alice Fawsett clarified at the end of the arraignment that despite reference to multiple sums in and around €100,000, the total amount of money involved was €70,000.

Ms Fawsett explained that only a portion of the falsified total represented an illegal gain for the accused and that the bulk of the total would have been legitimate.

“€70,000 of the claims was false, all of which has been recovered by the HSE. There is no money outstanding,” she said.

Mr O’Mahony explained that once this fraud came to light the accused for a period of 13 months provided services to the HSE and to patients and that during this period the HSE made no payment to her.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin agreed to adjourn sentencing until March 3 to allow the defence time to obtain a medical report on the accused.

Ms Fawsett SC said the State acknowledged that the pleas of guilty yesterday obviated the necessity for a trial on 174 counts and involving 1,500 exhibits.

The background to the crimes will be given at the sentencing next month.

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