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Pharmacist sent to jail for a month

Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Judge Bruce Lubeck on April 18 sentenced a Park City pharmacist to 30 days in jail for his role in defrauding an insurance company.

Thomas Strebel is required to report to the Summit County Jail by 7 p.m. on Friday, court records show. As part of a deal with prosecutors, Strebel, 61, who lives in Park Meadows, pleaded guilty to a class A misdemeanor charge of violating the state’s False or Fraudulent Insurance Act.

Strebel, who was from the Park City Pharmacy, had initially faced two felony charges, one of insurance fraud and the other of witness tampering, but struck a plea bargain with the prosecutors in February.

Court records show that Strebel agreed to plead guilty to the insurance-fraud charge in exchange for the count being reduced to a class A misdemeanor and that the prosecutors drop the witness-tampering charge.

Meanwhile, Strebel agreed to pay $26,729.80 in restitution to Intermountain Healthcare and pay $10,000 to the fraud division of the Utah Insurance Department to reimburse for its investigation, according to court documents.

As part of the agreement with prosecutors, Strebel pledged to not work as a pharmacist, not own a pharmacy and not work at a pharmacy.

Federal authorities in October arrested Strebel, charging that he was seeking money from insurance companies for medicines that were not prescribed.

David Barrow, a pharmacist at Park City Pharmacy, said on Monday that Strebel left the business in late 2005.

The pharmacy was closed for three weeks in late 2005 at about the same time as Strebel’s departure as new licenses were obtained, Barrow said. Strebel sold the pharmacy in the same period, he said.

Barrow said customers have been returning to the pharmacy in the meantime. It is currently operating normally, he said.

The case unfolded last fall, when the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing investigators targeted Strebel after receiving information that an IHC customer, who did not suffer from asthma, was receiving asthma medicine that was not prescribed, according to a 2005 court filing made by Daryl Bell, an assistant attorney general.

The pharmacy billed IHC $26,729.80 for medications like Advair, Diskus and Albuterol, Bell claimed.

A doctor noticed the discrepancy and contacted the licensing division, saying, "Not asthmatic! I did not prescribe. We are reporting to DEA & State Board of Pharm," the filing said.

In May and in July 2005, the doctor received letters from IHC asking for a response to an audit of the prescriptions and in October the doctor, in response to an administrative subpoena from the licensing division, supplied the investigators with medical records, the prosecutors said.

The doctor "emphasized" she was not treating her patient for asthma, according to the prosecutors.

The patient in October told investigators that she had not been prescribed asthma medicine but, prosecutors said she, "was aware that these types of medications had been billed to her insurance carrier."

Bell said Strebel paid the restitution and he is pleased that Strebel is barred from working in the industry.

"We don’t want him in the pharmacy business," he said.

Attorneys for Strebel did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.


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