Blackstone Man Pleads Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with Using Stolen Identities, Forging Doctors’ Prescriptions to Illegally Obtain Drugs
Defendant Conspired with Rhode Island Man to Perpetrate Scheme throughout Massachusetts
BOSTON – A Blackstone man has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced in connection with stealing dozens of identities, which were used to pass forged doctors’ prescriptions at pharmacies and receive prescription drugs, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
John Tropea, 59, pleaded guilty to charges of Identity Fraud (76 counts), Obtaining Drugs by Fraud (76 counts), False Health Care Claims (40 counts), and Conspiracy. After the plea was entered Judge Thomas A. Connors sentenced Tropea to two-and-a-half years in the House of Correction with five years probation after his incarceration. Tropea was previously charged with co-defendant Keith Huguenin, 33, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
“This defendant used stolen identities to fraudulently obtain prescription drugs throughout the state,” AG Coakley said. “These drugs are intended to help people under the recommendation of a doctor, not to be abused or procured falsely.”
In June 2010, the AG’s Office began an investigation into the activities of the two men after the matter was initially investigated and referred by the Millbury Police Department. From May 2009 to October 2009, Tropea conspired with Huguenin to steal the identities of dozens of individuals in six counties throughout the state, and used those identities to obtain prescription drugs.
Investigators discovered that Tropea, with help from Huguenin, wrote fraudulent prescriptions from a doctor’s pad that Tropea stole from a physician he received treatment from for a prior medical condition. Tropea would then go to various pharmacies and present these forged documents as legitimate prescriptions and received drugs such as Hydrocodone (the generic form of Vicoden) and other prescription drugs. In many cases Tropea and Huguenin submitted the prescriptions with health insurance information obtained by using stolen identities. In turn, health insurance companies paid for the prescriptions.
A Statewide Grand Jury returned indictments against both Tropea and Huguenin to Bristol, Middlesex, Norfolk, Worcester, Plymouth and Suffolk counties on April 25, 2011. The defendants were arraigned in Suffolk Superior and Plymouth Superior Courts, prior to the transfer and consolidation of all cases to Suffolk County Superior Court.
Following the consolidation, Tropea and Huguenin were arraigned on the remaining charges in Suffolk Superior Court on September 26, 2011, at which time the defendants pleaded not guilty and were released on personal recognizance.
Huguenin pleaded guilty to charges of Identity Fraud (3 counts), Obtaining Drugs by Fraud (3 counts), Filing False Health Care Claims (3 counts) and Conspiracy on April 17. After the plea was entered, Judge Carol Ball sentenced Huguenin to three years of probation with continued drug treatment. Tropea pleaded guilty Wednesday and was sentenced to jail.
AG Coakley’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division (IUFD) works to protect consumers and the integrity of the insurance system by investigating and prosecuting those who commit fraud against all types of insurers, including the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation system. The prosecution of insurance fraud helps prevent the increase in premiums and taxes that are the result of fraudulent insurance claims. In 2011, the division obtained approximately $5.6 million in restitution orders in 33 matters.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Margret Cooke, Chief of AG Coakley’s Fraud and Financial Crimes Division and was investigated by Investigators Rose Bagalawis and Tracey Wetterlow of AG Coakley’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division. The initial investigation was conducted by the Millbury Police Department.