Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell announced the arrest of a Lake Worth man for allegedly defrauding a nationwide settlement fund intended for patients who used the cancer-fighting drug Taxol.
Martti Antila, a/k/a Martin Antila, 59, is charged with second-degree grand theft and 23 counts of communications fraud for submitting more than $77,000 in fraudulent claims to the Attorney General’s Office for Taxol settlement checks. Each claim contained a statement that the claimant had used Taxol and was due $525 to $3,000 in refunds.
An investigation reportedly revealed that in his attempt to obtain the settlement checks, Antila used the names of others, forged doctors’ signatures, and had checks sent to some of his Lake Worth properties.
“It is unconscionable to steal from a fund intended to help cancer patients,” said Crist. “We are sending a strong message that this type of behavior has serious consequences.”
The $12.5 million Taxol consumer settlement fund was the result of an antitrust case filed against Bristol-Myers Squibb by the Florida Attorney General’s Office and attorneys general from the 49 other states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
The lawsuit alleged that the company obtained invalid patents for Taxol, which delayed the availability of lower-cost generic substitutes. As a result of the company’s actions, patients had to pay higher prices for the drug. The settlement was approved last November and victims were asked to submit claims before Feb. 29, 2004.
Checks from the settlement fund were distributed to patients by the Attorney General’s Office. Claim forms were readily available on the internet, and victims could print them out and send them to the settlement fund for processing. Law enforcement officers believe Antila used more than 50 names and the names of at least 11 doctors to create his fraudulent claims.
Antila was booked into Palm Beach County Jail and bond was set at $100,000. If convicted of these charges, he faces a maximum of 125 years in prison and $120,000 dollars in fines. Many more charges are expected.
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