AUGUSTA — No generic medication, please.
That’s what a city man told his doctor for nearly four years even though his MaineCare coverage refused to pay for the brand name OxyContin, since it was not medically required.
Federal prosecutors say Benjamin Peaslee Sr., 61, of Augusta admitted selling a dozen of the name-brand pills each month for $100 each so he could get cash to buy the next month’s supply of the powerful prescription painkiller while he was receiving federal benefits.
On Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Peaslee pleaded guilty to charges of concealing information material to eligibility for Social Security benefits and making a false statement in a federal matter.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Peaslee remains free on bail pending a sentencing hearing.
Peaslee’s attorney, Hunter Tzovarras, said he wants Peaslee to be put on probation rather than imprisoned. He said Peaslee agrees with the prosecution’s version of the crime.
“It’s a sad situation,” Tzovarras said. “He wasn’t getting rich off of it. He was just basically doing it to get the medication. He realized that he did wrong and he shouldn’t have been handling it that way.”
In Peaslee’s mind, only the name brand worked for him, and the generic didn’t work as well, Tzovarras said. Peaslee would get rid of just enough of his OxyContin pills to make enough money to buy the name-brand pills, he said.
The court document says Peaslee failed to disclose the $1,200 monthly income to either Social Security or the Department of Health and Human Services, “even though he knew he was supposed to.”
“The crime was that he didn’t tell Social Security that he was getting the extra $1,200 to get the pills with,” Tzovarras said.
The same document says Peaslee told his doctor in October 2010 that he no longer could afford the brand-name OxyContin, so “his doctor changed his prescription to the much cheaper generic oxycodone, and MaineCare began paying for the prescription.” A year later, the doctor dropped Peaslee as a patient after learning Peaslee had admitted selling part of the prescription.
Peaslee began receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits in 1984 “based on back, hip and wrist injuries.”
The government says Peaslee never reported the income from selling the pills, and that Peaslee received overpayments of $22,722 in Supplemental Security Income benefits through Social Security, plus $17,297 in drug and medical claims paid on his behalf and $733 in food assistance benefits from the Department of Health & Human Services.
Records show Peaslee paid an average of $1,100 a month in cash for the prescription from the Walmart pharmacy from January 2008.
“For all but five of these 44 prescriptions, defendant signed a cash waiver form indicating that he had been advised that he could request authorization for MaineCare reimbursement and had chosen not to do so,” according to the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Fisk Malone, in court documents.
Betty Adams — 621-5631