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Jacksonville Woman Gets 7 Years in Prison in Claim Scheme

1/15/2002

TALLAHASSEE -- A Jacksonville woman has been sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to submitting 324 fraudulent claims to her insurance company for prescription drugs that were never purchased, said Florida Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher.

Sandra Lynne Austin, 42, whose last known address was 6109 Greenberry Lane, also was ordered to pay back more than $193,000 to Aetna U.S. Healthcare. She pleaded guilty to grand theft and was sentenced last Wednesday in the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court in Jacksonville. Circuit Judge Gregg W. McCaulie imposed the sentence.

Austin had been employed in the medical field as an office worker, but investigators with the Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud, said it was after she was no longer in that job that she began manufacturing the claims during a two-year period between May 1996 and June 1998. The pharmacies she listed on the claims had no records of the transactions. Investigators said Austin created the fictitious claims by adding new information to old pharmacy receipts.

Aetna U.S. Healthcare notified the division after receiving an anonymous tip. Austin was arrested on an unrelated charge in Seattle, Wash., last September and was extradited back to Florida in October.

In addition to the prison time and restitution, Austin was ordered to pay investigation and court costs.

The Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information leading to a conviction.