California investigating former Walgreens employee who posed as pharmacist

The California State Board of Pharmacy is accusing a former Walgreens employee of fraud for allegedly posing as a pharmacist and authorizing more than 745,000 prescriptions without a license.

The state's 14-page accusation document says Kim Thien Le worked as a pharmacist and pharmacy manager from 2006 through 2017 at three Bay Area Walgreens stores in Fremont, Milpitas, and San Jose. 

Investigators say Le has never  been  licensed as a pharmacist. Records show she had a pharmacy technician license which expired in 2008, according to Bob Davila, a spokesman for the California State Board Of Pharmacy.

'There's a major difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacist technician. Pharmacists have to go through a lot of educational requirements and meet stringent state requirements to get a license," said Davila.

Investigators say most of the prescriptions were authorized at the Walgreens on Mowry Avenue in Fremont. More than 100,000 prescriptions were for controlled substances, some which had improper documentation and no refill limit according to the state complaint.

"Chemicals and drugs are very complicated and you want to be sure the person who's filling those presciptions for you is up to date and knows everything that a pharmacist needs to know," said Davila.

"I personally am very shocked and I think those kinds of things should not be with such an esteemed brand," said Priya Naidu, a Walgreens customer.

Investigators say twice, Le gave inspectors pharmacist license numbers that belonged to other people with similar names. 

The complaint also says Le claimed she had a pharmacy degree from Creighton University in Nebraska, but inspectors could find no records she graduated. 

Walgreens sent a response from their corporate spokesman: "This individual is no longer employed by Walgreens, and has not been since October 2017.  Upon learning of this issue, we undertook a re-verification of the licenses of all our pharmacists nationwide to ensure that this was an isolated incident," said Jim Cohn, a Walgreens spokesman.

Customers say they want answers about Walgreens' hiring procedures. 

"The trust, it's more in the trust area that you feel what's going on here," said Osman Mohmand, a  customer in Fremont, "For Walgreens to have done something like that is really surprising and shocking. I wouldn't expect that from a big organization like this."

KTVU attempted to contact Le at her address in Milpitas that was written on the complaint. The young woman who answered the door, however said she was not Le and declined to comment. 

The state pharmacy board has requested the three Walgreens stores lose their licenses.

The board is still awaiting a hearing date.