After being on the run for a year, a Hamblen County, Tennessee woman has been booked on TennCare fraud charges involving prescription drugs paid for by TennCare. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance from officers with the Hamblen County Sheriff and Morristown Police, announced the arrest of 32-year-old Ashley N. Barnard-Watson of Morristown. A Hamblen County Grand Jury indicted Barnard-Watson on July 6, 2016, charging her with TennCare fraud for allegedly using TennCare benefits to obtain a prescription for Subutex and selling a portion of the drugs to an undercover informant. Subutex is a drug used to treat addiction to opioids, a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetics such as fentanyl and pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and many others.
“We’re cracking down on people using TennCare to finance their drug habit or to provide a way for users to put the drugs on the street for other drug seekers to purchase illegally,” Inspector General Manny Tyndall said. “Local police and providers are committed to helping us eliminate prescription drug abuse, especially when TennCare is involved.”
District Attorney General Dan E. Armstrong is prosecuting. TennCare fraud is now a Class D felony punishable by up to four years in prison per charge.
The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to more than $3 million being repaid to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of more than $163.6 million for TennCare, according to latest figures. To date, 2,869 people have been charged with TennCare fraud.