PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) - A woman accused of purposely and repeatedly dislocating her shoulder so she could get painkillers pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud charges.
Kari Richards, 29, of Latrobe, pleaded guilty in federal court in Pittsburgh to health care fraud and obtaining controlled substances by fraud.
Richards sat next to her attorney while the judge asked her several questions. She was indicted in June of last year.
From January 2014 through April 2015, the indictment states that Richards knowingly defrauded Highmark, Inc.'s Community Blue Shared Cost plan.
She's accused of stealing $600,000 from the health insurer.
The indictment says she filed claims after traveling to more than 100 hospitals in 11 states on more than 300 occasions so she could get her hands on 190 prescription drugs, mainly oxycodone and hydrocone.
These are highly-addictive painkillers which are used to help treat shoulder dislocations.
During Richards' change of plea hearing, she told the judge that everything stated in the indictment was true except for the part that says she dislocated her shoulder intentionally.
Defense attorney William McCabe said in a statement that his client began struggling with "an intractable opiate drug addiction" after taking prescribed pain medication after a "painful and unsuccessful" shoulder surgery in 2012.
McCabe said that after the surgery, "her shoulder continued to frequently dislocate" but denied that she intentionally dislocated it. He said his client "used the shoulder dislocations as the reasons to obtain drugs and prescriptions at numerous emergency rooms in several states in order to fuel her addiction" and misrepresented "the severity and cause" of the dislocations as well as her history of drug use and emergency room treatments.
McCabe said Richards had entered a drug treatment program voluntarily before her arrest, and "with the support of her family and friends, she is now on the road to recovery from her addiction."
Richards is out on bond and will be sentenced Sept. 7 at 11 a.m.
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