A CONMAN who became hooked on morphine while in hospital in Thailand used false identities to cheat doctors out of supplies of the drug – until a GP in Swindon raised the alarm.
Christopher Clark, a 47-year-old commercial investigator who travels the world, cheated GPs out-of-hours services and several doctors' practices to feed his addiction.
The skilled fraudster illegally obtained a total of £8,849 worth of prescription drugs, prosecutor Lisa Hennessy told Gloucester Crown Court.
Clark, of Bartletts Park, Stow-on-the-Wold, pleaded guilty to six charges of fraud by false representation against surgeries and other medical facilities in Gloucester-shire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.
Judge Jamie Tabor QC told Clark that if he had not given himself up to an NHS Fraud investigator and confessed his crimes he would have locked him up.
“You were addicted at that time to opiates and you genuinely wanted help and you were sorry for what you had done,” said the judge.
“You had practised, over a considerable period of time, a clever and exploitative fraud.
“The probation officer’s pre-sentence report on you says you were skilfully exploiting the trust most people were willing to put in a pleasant and plausible man.
“You were a conman. You were unwell and you had also gone through a number of bereavements – more than should be met on any man.
“But I cannot ignore the fact you were a very successful conman over that period of time.”
The judge sentenced him to nine months’ jail suspended for two years with supervision for a year and a requirement to attend a mental health specified activity requirement for eight sessions.
He also ordered him to repay £1,000 to the NHS and costs of £250.
Prosecutor Lisa Hennessy said Clark had contacted the Gloucestershire out-of-hours service in April 2008 and was prescribed MST Continus – morphine tablets. Over the next year he received three further prescriptions for morphine and other drugs from the same service.
However he was not entitled to them because he was a registered patient with a GP practice in Stow that was trying to help him withdraw from morphine.
“He had become addicted to it in a Bangkok hospital while he was being treated for a hereditary blood disorder,” she said.
“The Stow practice had prescribed morphine sulphate to him on the understanding that he was not receiving controlled drugs from anywhere else.”
Clark’s other sources included the Carfax Medical Centre in Swindon where used the name Mike Clarke.
He would tell lies about being in the area on business and running out of his medication.
However, a GP in Swindon became suspicious the second time Clark asked for drugs and checks were made.
Even so, he carried on his con and went to the Herefordshire GP Access centre where he said he was from Dublin and obtained yet another prescription.
On November 8, 2010, Clarke called NHS fraud specialist Lee Sheridan and confessed all, said Mrs Hennessy.
Police went to his home on November 19, 2010 and found a large quantity of controlled drugs.
Fiona Campbell, defending, said his offences had been a cry for help with his addiction and since the offences came to light two years ago he had been tackling his problem.
“He says his problem is now under control,” she told the court.
Clark, who was sentenced last week, had suffered several suicides in the family and was also stressed by his mother’s dementia, she added.