Romania: 13 Arrested over 'Health Insurance Scam'

Romanian authorities have raided 59 houses in a large-scale swoop on a group of pharmacists, doctors and health officials they suspect made up to US$ 2.2 million from the national health insurance fund by arranging and processing fake prescriptions.

Photo from the raidThe Monday busts targeted the homes and practices of doctors and pharmacists living and working in the Bucharest, Braila, Constanta and Vrancea municipalities, and resulted in 13 arrests.

Prosecutors say the group is made up of 25 members including representatives and employees of a chain of pharmacies, family doctors and specialists, and national health insurance employees.

According to investigators, since 2011 the 'organized crime group' has colluded in tax evasion, money laundering, forgery, computer fraud, abuse of office, false statements, usury, nepotism, influence peddling, bribery and blackmail – all aimed at illegally siphoning off at least nine million Romanian lei (US$ 2,278,659) from the National Unique Health Insurance Fund.

Prosecutors allege that in 2009, suspected leader of the group Titi Sgarcitu, who is currently serving a prison sentence in an unrelated case, established a pharmaceuticals company. His wife, Liliana Valentina Sgarcitu, managed the firm.

Employees of the company allegedly drew money from the national health fund by processing unneeded prescriptions issued to them by doctors and specialists who were in on the scam.

Local news portal Probraila published footage of Liliana Valentina Sgarcitu being taken in for questioning on Tuesday. She and 12 others were ordered into 24-hour preventive arrest.

The scam was allegedly coordinated by an unnamed resident of the coastal city of Constanta, and took in several officials from the National Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices as well as the Health Insurance House, who are thought to have helped speed up the release of funds for the fictitious prescriptions.

Insiders from the national health insurance fund are believed by investigators to have leaked government inspection dates to the pharmaceuticals firm at the heart of the scandal, helping it prevent detection by law enforcement.

The Sgarcitus have not yet commented on the accusations.