- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A woman accused of purposely and repeatedly dislocated her shoulder so she could get painkillers pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud charges.

Kari Richards, of Latrobe, pleaded guilty in federal court in Pittsburgh to health care fraud and obtaining controlled substances by fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 7 following completion of a presentencing report.

Federal prosecutors alleged last June that Richards defrauded Highmark Inc.’s Community Blue health insurance plan by traveling to more than 100 hospitals in 11 states to obtain prescriptions for shoulder dislocations she was causing herself. Authorities said that during a 16-month period, Richards sought treatment at hospitals more than 300 times.

Prosecutors said Richards defrauded Highmark’s Community Blue Shared Cost plan by obtaining 190 prescriptions for oxycodone and other opiates from January 2014 to April 2015.

Defense attorney William McCabe said in a statement that his client began struggling with “an intractable opiate drug addiction” after taking prescribed pain medication after a “painful and unsuccessful” shoulder surgery in 2012.

McCabe said that after the surgery, “her shoulder continued to frequently dislocate” but denied that she intentionally dislocated it. He said his client “used the shoulder dislocations as the reasons to obtain drugs and prescriptions at numerous emergency rooms in several states in order to fuel her addiction” and misrepresented “the severity and cause” of the dislocations as well as her history of drug use and emergency room treatments.

McCabe said Richards had entered a drug treatment program voluntarily before her arrest, and “with the support of her family and friends, she is now on the road to recovery from her addiction.”

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