Puerto Rico VA Pharmacy Tech May Only Get 2 Years For Stealing $6.75 Million In Insulin

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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A Puerto Rico Veterans Affairs pharmacy technician is pleading guilty to stealing millions of dollars’ worth of insulin from her facility in San Juan, but she may receive a sentence of less than two years due to a plea agreement.

Carmen Medina-Serrano was indicted on July 24, 2017, for stealing quantities of insulin with a market value of $6.75 million, costing the VA approximately $762,000. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 21.

Medina-Serrano’s guilty plea is the latest news of employees taking advantage of their positions at the VA Caribbean Healthcare System (VACHS), which includes Medina-Serrano’s workplace. (RELATED: Wounded Veterans Reap The Benefits After Congressional Picnic Is Cancelled)

Medina-Serrano started working as a pharmacy procurement technician at the San Juan VA Medical Center out-patient pharmacy in October 2012. She had access to the pharmacy’s electronic prescription-ordering system as well as the ability to place those orders, according to the indictment.

The VA Office of the Inspector General was alerted to Medina-Serrano’s actions in July 2016. She resigned that month, said Axel Roman, a public affairs officer for the VACHS, in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Medina-Serrano was not indicted until a year later, on July 24, 2017. Although the indictment was handed down in Puerto Rico’s court district, Medina-Serrano was arrested a day later, on July 25, 2017, in eastern North Carolina.

She had a hearing in Raleigh, North Carolina, on July 26, 2017, where she was represented by a federal public defender appointed that day. A Spanish interpreter was sworn in to assist in the hearing. Medina-Serrano petitioned to have her case moved to the Eastern District of North Carolina. The judge denied her request, ordering her to appear in Puerto Rico when required.

Medina-Serrano agreed to plead guilty to theft of government property on April 20. She waived her right to appeal should her sentence be less than two years.

The VACHS has strengthened physical security procedures to prevent future theft like that perpetrated by Medina-Serrano, Roman said in an email to TheDCNF.

The VACHS, which includes the pharmacy where Medina-Serrano worked, has a long history of corruption at all levels.

For example, Puerto Rico VA Hospital Director Dewayne Hamlin was arrested for driving drunk while in possession of painkillers in Florida in April 2014. Hamlin refused to reveal where he had obtained the painkillers. When a hospital employee acting as a whistleblower called attention to the arrest, Hamlin tried to use hospital funds to pay off another employee to fire the whistleblower.

Hospital employee Elizabeth Rivera Rivera was arrested for armed robbery, pled guilty to two misdemeanors and missed work while she was in jail in February 2016. She returned to the VA and was fired a few months later. But her time working for the VA was not over. Her union, American Federation of Government Employees, filed a grievance, and Rivera was back at work for the VA as of March 2016.

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