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Former WellSpan doctor accused of writing more than 200 fraudulent prescriptions

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A former WellSpan doctor allegedly obtained more than 17,000 opioid pills over a period of several years by writing phony prescriptions in family members' names.

A grand jury indicted the doctor - Charles Gartland, 60, of Chester County - on Nov. 29 on charges of health care fraud and obtaining a controlled substance through deception. He surrendered to the U.S. Marshal Service the next day and has pleaded not guilty, according to a news release from the U.S Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

An attorney representing Gartland, Daniel Pell of a firm in Springettsbury Township, declined to comment.

Gartland worked in internal medicine for WellSpan from 2011 until August of this year, when the company placed him on leave because of suspicions that he was writing prescriptions outside the scope of his authority at WellSpan, said WellSpan spokesman Dan Carrigan.

WellSpan officials contacted law enforcement and regulatory agencies about their suspicions and fired Gartland Nov. 17, Carrigan said.

Gartland allegedly wrote 221 fraudulent prescriptions in family members' names between September 2014 and August 2017 in order to access pills for his own use. Nearly 200 of those prescriptions were for hydrocodone-ibuprofen - an opioid painkiller - of which Gartland obtained 17,187 200-milligram pills, according to the indictment. Other prescriptions were for oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and other controlled substances.

Gartland allegedly filled these prescriptions at four pharmacies in York, Lancaster and Chester counties. All of these medications were covered by either Medicare or WellSpan's health plan, both of which Gartland defrauded in the course of obtaining the pills, the indictment states.

A judge released Gartland pending trial, which is scheduled for Feb. 5 in U.S. Middle District Court.

The indictment comes at a time when officials throughout Pennsylvania are looking to crack down on illegal opioid use. State senators advanced a bill last month that would limit the use of prescription opioids among employees who file workers' compensation claims, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is one of several attorneys general leading a probe into pharmaceutical companies' opioid-related practices.

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Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @jenni_wentz.

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