Strebel appears in court on fraud charges
A Park City pharmacist facing two felonies for insurance fraud and witness tampering appeared for about one minute Tuesday in Third District Court in the Snyderville Basin.
During the initial appearance, Judge Bruce Lubeck scheduled a preliminary hearing for 60-year-old Thomas Strebel on Jan. 17 at 1:30 p.m. The man is charged with filing a fraudulent insurance claim, a second-degree felony, and third-degree felony witness tampering.
"There was some information provided to us by a physician that led to the investigation," said Daryl Bell, a prosecutor for the Utah Attorney General’s Office during an interview following Tuesday’s court proceedings. "An insurance company was deceived into paying a claim that was fraudulent."
Strebel allegedly attempted to bilk nearly $27,000 from Intermountain Health Care for fraudulent prescriptions. FBI investigators have claimed he once billed an insurer 55 times for a "very expensive" asthma medication the patient never used.
Strebel then attempted to bribe a woman who discovered inconsistencies in his billing practices with money in order to cover up the fraud, Bell said.
"I wouldn’t file if I wasn’t confident," the prosecutor told The Park Record. Bell is one of three lawyers assigned by the attorney general to prosecute cases of insurance fraud.
"There are federal charges that could have been filed," he added.
Strebel and Earl Xaiz, his attorney from Salt Lake City, did not comment this week. The case is still in discovery, Xaiz said.
Strebel was arrested and booked into the Summit County Jail on Oct 26. A jail official said he was released after posting $20,000 in bail.
He allegedly submitted a fraudulent prescription from the Park City Pharmacy at the Clinic, a business he owned on Bonanza Drive. Strebel’s business license is no longer active and the pharmacy is under new ownership, a Park City finance clerk said Tuesday. Kristy Black reportedly gained ownership of the pharmacy after charges against Strebel arose.
According to FBI special Agent Brent Robbins, investigators have received additional complaints about Strebel since charges against him were publicized.
On Oct. 31, Strebel was ordered by the Utah Department of Commerce to cease and desist dispensing controlled substances.
"The emergency suspension hearing took place because of the need to take the public’s interest and safety into consideration," said Clark Caras, a Department of Commerce spokesman at the time of the suspension.
According to Caras, Strebel first appears in the state’s records in 1988, when his pharmacist license was renewed.
Two other pharmacists became embroiled in controversy at the pharmacy in the late 1990s after they were sentenced to prison for a pharmaceutical-smuggling scheme that trafficked drugs between Mexico and the United States.
Park City Healthcare officials, who share the building with the pharmacy, have distanced themselves from Strebel.
"We have nothing to do with Mr. Strebel," Park City Healthcare administrator Brock Place said at the time of Strebel’s arrest.
Place added that his clinic did not refer patients to the defendant.
According to an Oct. 31 notice sent by IHC to its customers who had prescriptions filled by Strebel, "Park City Pharmacy at the Clinic will no longer be an IHC Health Plans’ participating pharmacy."
Instead, IHC members are directed to Albertsons, Dan’s Foods, Smith’s Food and Drug, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart or the University of Utah clinic, which remain in good standing with the health care provider.
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A public hearing regarding Summit County’s $50 million open space bond is scheduled Wednesday in Coalville. Officials hope to hear from those who live on the East Side.