Renee Caruso-Izarry, a 37-year-old resident of Rickenbacker Drive in Palm Coast and a former employee at Coastal Health Care Partners, a chiropractic clinic with locations in Palm Coast and Volusia County, was arrested Thursday on seven felony charges stemming from allegedly ordering prescriptions and practicing medicine without a license. Caruso-Izarry was fired on May 15.
She is accused of fraudulently calling in prescriptions for narcotics such as Tramadol, Gabapentin and Voltaren, often prescribed for pain management, and doing so for a boyfriend and a patient who was also manager of the Daytona Beach office. The prescriptions were ordered over months, going back to early last year, with prescriptions for hundreds of pills.
According to the arrest report, Caruso-Izarry was forthcoming with detectives when she was interviewed on June 5. An employee in medical offices for about 10 years, she said she had “experience in calling in prescriptions in the past at other doctors’ offices, but was barred from filling prescriptions for herself or other employees “due to malpractice concerns.”
During her interview, she acknowledged that doing so was unethical and a violation of policy. She nevertheless justified it because, she said, “she was overworked and underpaid.”
She’d use a pharmacy app on her smartphone to request a refill for a prescription that she was legitimately prescribed. Publix Pharmacy would send an authorization request to Coastal Healthcare by fax, to confirm the order. She’d intercept the fax, provide confirmation herself and authorize the refill of the prescriptions without a doctor’s approval, but using the authorization code of a physician at the practice. To conceal the act, she would then intentionally not document the incident.
She told detectives that while at Coastal Healthcare Partners, she conducted several services for which she was not licensed, including “preparing an exam room, triaging a patient, receiving patient history, assessing a patient’s pain levels and locations, taking a patient’s vitals, preparing a patient for surgery, assisting in outpatient surgeries to include preparing needles, and cleaning and sterilizing patients, rooms and equipment.”
According to the arrest affidavit, Adam Blahut, an official at the Florida Department of Health indicated to sheriff’s detectives that “he was interested in moving forward with an investigation of the office and employees” at Coastal Healthcare, but that “the criminal investigation by the Flagler County Sheriffs Office had to be completed prior to him beginning.”
She told detectives that on several occasions she called in prescriptions for her boyfriend who was not even a patient at the practice–and who had moved out of state. She claimed she was unaware that she was not authorized to do so, and “decided to prescribe him Gabapentin because she sifted through his medical records and was able to determine that he was prescribed them in the past.” She continued to prescribe him medication after their relationship ended, but stopped once he got his own insurance plan in Georgia.
The manager at the Daytona office told detectives that she was under the impression that Caruso-Izarry was following procedures, and was not aware that she was calling in “counterfeit prescriptions.” The manager was seeking painkillers to treat migraines, and would exchange texts with Caruso-Izarry: “Please help me I have a migraine,” she texted on one occasion.
“Okay watcha need baby,” Caruso-Izarry replied, according to a transcript in her charging affidavit.
“Something to help the pain go away (crying emoji).”
“Ok which pharmacy and I gotcha covered.” The manager provided a pharmacy name in New Smyrna Beach.
“This woman took advantage of her employment at a medical facility and decided to play doctor,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release issued today. “Luckily no one was seriously injured by the medications she prescribed. Our SIU Unit did a great job in thoroughly investigating this case and obtaining all of the documentation surrounding these prescription orders. Florida has a robust Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in place and in this case it helped us build a strong case to support these charges.” SIU is the special investigations unit.
Caruso-Izarry was booked at the Flagler County jail early this morning, and was released on $12,000 bond. On her Facebook page, she describes herself as self-employed at Irizarry Enterprises and as a “Herbalife Supervisor health coach.”
Doesn’t sound to me like she was “playing doctor” so much as buying love and feeding her own sense of wounded entitlement.
Trailer Bob says
Wow. I was treated at the facility she worked at, and she was always very nice and kind. Money makes people do some bad things they wouldn’t have normally done. Hope she gets her life together.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Throw the book at her! No respect!
Past patient says
I was a patient there she was always kind and did more for me than anyone else did. How could she be playing doctor without anyone noticing? If you ask me the pratice has something to hide. Looks like the office manager needs to be brought in to. Hope they investigate that person as well.