Memphis, TN – Erin Pealor, 36, of Maryville, TN, has been sentenced to 36 months in federal prison for attempting to acquire or obtain a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge. D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee and Brian Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General Justice Department’s Criminal Division, announced the sentence today.
According to information presented in court, beginning in November 2017 and continuing through February 2018, the defendant knowingly and intentionally attempted to obtain Schedule II controlled substances, namely methylphenidate and amphetamine, by fraud, forgery, deception, and subterfuge by filling out prescriptions with false and fraudulent patient names and forging the signature of a local physician. Pealor then attempted to fill those false and fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances at various pharmacies.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said, “Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, and unfortunately, causes individuals to engage in criminal behavior that contributes to the problem. Just as this office will hold medical professionals accountable for over-prescribing opioids, we will also pursue federal charges against any person who exploits the medical profession for their own selfish desire to obtain highly addictive prescription drugs by dishonest methods.”
In addition to the conduct charged in the September 2019 indictment in the Western District of Tennessee, Pealor admitted to the following facts related to conduct in the Eastern District of Tennessee:
On February 18, 2019, law enforcement made contact with Pealor in a parking lot at a CVS Pharmacy in Maryville, Tennessee. Law enforcement advised Pealor of her Miranda rights and she consented to have law enforcement search her vehicle. Law enforcement found four fake Arkansas drivers’ licenses, a bottle of methylphenidate (Ritalin) 20mg in the name of a minor, an empty pill bottle in the name of another minor, CVS Pharmacy sales receipts, prescriptions in the names of two other doctors along with two ledgers that contained children’s names, dates of birth, addresses and pharmacy names, and an iPhone.
Evidence revealed Pealor was the manager of Youth Opportunity Services and had been knowingly stealing personal identifying information belonging to children in the Department of Children’s Services database and using that information to write and pass fraudulent prescriptions at numerous pharmacies in Blount and Knox counties. No one authorized the prescriptions, and Pealor’s use of the children’s identities was unauthorized. Ms. Pealor forged prescriptions in the name of two doctors who did not authorize Pealor to place their names and signatures on the prescriptions. Some of those false and fraudulent prescriptions were found in her vehicle, but prior to being taken into custody, Pealor had successfully made unauthorized use of the identities of dozens of children in order to obtain Ritalin by means of forged prescriptions.
Through this scheme, Ms. Pealor obtained an estimated 5,000 pills. She also stole the TennCare numbers for these children and used the children’s TennCare benefits to pay for the prescriptions. Accordingly, she was knowingly using, without lawful authority, the identities of both children and physicians in order to commit the offense of health care fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 1347 and making false statements in connection with a health care matter in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1035.
Pealor was among several defendants charged in the Second Appalachian Region Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force Takedown in September, 2019:
On September 29, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker sentenced Pealor to 36 months in federal prison followed by one year supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
The Appalachian Region Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the State of Tennessee Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated this case. Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 federal judicial districts, has charged more than 300 individuals with schemes involving more than 6 billion dollars in alleged healthcare fraud, and millions of prescription opioids.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Erskine and Trial Attorney Emily Petro of the DOJ Fraud Section prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.