- Associated Press - Monday, August 22, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A man has been charged with conspiring with the manager of a doctor’s office to steal prescription pads to obtain and sell oxycodone in Hawaii.

The doctor’s office manager supplied Thomas Vasconcellos with authentic blank prescription forms, according to court documents. Vasconcellos and others allegedly used the prescription forms to obtain oxycodone and other controlled drugs.

The doctor, who is not identified in court documents, told authorities the only person who had access and control of his prescription pads was Juliann Ignacio. She would falsely verify the prescriptions when suspicious pharmacies called with questions, the court documents said.

The conspiracy involved about 15,000 pills, prosecutors said

A federal judge ruled Monday that Vasconcellos can be released to a drug treatment program on $50,000 bond. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren, who called the case troubling, said he was prepared to release him so he can get drug treatment.

“I actually thank the system right now because something happened,” Vasconcellos said, adding that he’s thinking clearly now.

He promised that he’ll abide by conditions of his release and won’t flee.

“He maintains he was not forging the prescriptions,” Vasconcellos’ defense attorney, Megan Kau, said after the hearing. Kau said her client told her he got the prescriptions from Ignacio.

Vasconcellos, who entered the courtroom in a wheelchair, is addicted to oxycodone stemming from his arthritis pain, Kau said.

Ignacio was previously released to a drug treatment program. Her defense attorney, Neal Kugiya, declined to comment on the allegations.

For some of the transactions, Vasconcellos recruited someone to fill fraudulent prescriptions, according to court documents. Vasconcellos would pick a pharmacy, follow the person and wait outside while the prescription was filled. That person would normally use insurance to pay for the prescription. But if cash was necessary, Vasconcellos would provide the money, according to the documents.

After the prescription was filled, Vasconcellos would dole out the person’s share and keep the rest for himself, the documents say.

The case comes as Hawaii ranks last in a report of states using electronically filed prescriptions to combat opioid abuse. Electronic prescriptions are more secure than prescription pads, said Paul Uhrig, executive vice president of Surescripts, the company that conducted the state-by-state ranking.

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