LOWELL -- A former resident of The 12-Step Education Program, a sober-house in Billerica, is accused of being the ringleader of a prescription-fraud ring that has hit CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.

In Lowell District Court on Thursday, Debra A. Sama, 50, of Waltham, pleaded not guilty to larceny over $250. She was released on personal recognizance with a pretrial date of Feb. 6.

Co-defendant Valerie Lawrence, 38, of Lowell, is also facing a charge of larceny over $250. Her arraignment information was not available.

According to court documents, on Sept. 11, 2012, Billerica police were notified by a doctor's office in Chelmsford that someone was trying to fraudulently fill a prescription for Gabapentin, a drug used to treat epilepsy and treat neuropathic pain, at a CVS in Billerica.

When police contacted the CVS, a pharmacist told police that his pharmacy had contacted other pharmcies in town, including Rite Aid and Walgreens, and discovered that numerous fraudulent prescriptions -- a total of about 11 -- had been called in to various pharmacies over the last month, according to court documents.

Through their investigation, Billerica police found the common link was an address -- 317 Boston Road. This is the address of The 12-Step Education Program, which provides sober housing for people with addiction issues who are in recovery.

Sama and Lawrence were the primary names linked to the prescription-fraud scheme.

Police contacted officials at The 12-Step Program, who were cooperative with the investigation, according to court documents.


Lawrence allegedly told police that Sama, the ring leader, came up with the idea of calling in fraudulent prescriptions. Lawrence said that Sama would allegedly call in a fraudulent prescription for 120 pills of Galapentin with the information of one of five residents and their family members.

Sama would take 80 pills for herself and dispense the other 40 pills between the five of the other residents, according to court documents. Sama was allegedly consuming 15 to 20 pills a day.

The calls to pharmacies would be made at least three to four times a week. Sama allegedly kept a list of people's names and birth dates on a yellow piece of paper.

The group used a resident's friend to pick up the scripts from the pharmacies.

During interviews with several men from the group, they told police that Sama and Lawrence were involved in calling in fraudulent prescriptions.

When Billerica police interviewed Sama, she allegedly said Lawrence was calling in the prescriptions for several residents in the program. Sama denied calling in or picking up prescriptions for anyone else.

Calls to the 12-Step Education Program went unanswered Friday afternoon.

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