Thomas Fenske, 35, of Cincinnati pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to wire fraud for operating a scheme promising to help people obtain free prescription drugs through his company, Queen City Script Care.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio and Kevin R. Cornelius, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cincinnati Division announced the plea entered today before Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott.
The plea is the result of a joint investigation by the FBI, DART, University of Cincinnati Police Department, Indiana State Police, Ohio Board of Pharmacy, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office, the Blue Ash Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil’s Office.
According to court documents, Fenske marketed Queen City Script Care as a business that could help individuals obtain free prescription drugs through pharmaceutical manufacturers patient assistance programs. Fenske and others at his direction recruited hundreds of customers for Queen City Script Care, often at senior health fairs and retirement communities. Many of Fenske’s customers were senior citizens on a fixed income who either could not afford their prescription medication or who had high prescription drug costs.
Fenske charged customers an initial fee and monthly fee for his services. The monthly fee depended upon the number of prescription drugs a customer received and generally ranged from $30 to $50 per month. Fenske required all of his monthly customers to submit to automatic withdrawals from their bank accounts. Fenske falsely represented that customers could cancel their membership at any time and could receive a refund if they did not qualify for assistance through a PAP or did not receive their medication.
Unbeknownst to customers, Fenske debited some customers’ bank accounts multiple times a month without the customers’ approval. The unauthorized debits of customer accounts totaled between $30,000 and $70.000 and involved more than 50 victims, but less than 250 victims.
Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Judge Dlott will determine the sentence following a pre-sentence investigation by the court. Judge Dlott could also order Fenske to pay restitution to the victims.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the federal, state and local agencies, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Glatfelter, who represented the United States in the case.