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Pharmacist struck off after £530k fraud spree to cover gambling debts

A pharmacist has been struck off the register for a series of fraudulent activities, including pretending to have cancer, to obtain more than £530,000 to settle his gambling debts and other payments.

Peter Saad, registration number 2082881, committed three frauds between September 2018 and May 2019, the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) fitness-to-practise committee heard at a hearing held across February 2-3 this year.

These included making false claims about a diagnosis of testicular cancer and claiming to own a pharmacy business in America, "all with a view to securing funds to help with what the registrant said were his debts and his gambling debts", the regulator heard.

The committee accepted that there is no suggestion that Mr Saad’s conduct “has ever put patients at risk”, and it pointed out there was "no suggestion that the registrant has ever been anything but a good pharmacist".

Mr Saad put it to the committee that his gambling addiction has now been treated successfully, referring to a discharge letter from the National Gambling Clinic that said there was "no risk of repetition of his gambling addiction". The committee accepted that Mr Saad had "sought help" for his addiction and was "unlikely to lapse into his gambling habit again".

But it said that his actions fell “far below the standards expected of a registered pharmacy professional”.

“Members of the public would be shocked to learn that a registrant fraudulently extracted £534,005.55 while relying, at least in part, on his profession as a pharmacist to do so,” the committee added.

 

Fabricated business ventures and testicular cancer

 

In September 2018, Mr Saad received a loan from a fellow member of his church – referred to as Person A in the hearing documents – to cover what he said were remortgage payments after he claimed to have bought a pharmacy in the US by remortgaging his father's family home, the GPhC heard.

Separately, Mr Saad gave Person A the impression that he had been diagnosed with "serious if not terminal" testicular cancer and received money to supposedly fund private treatment, “including an operation and chemotherapy”, the regulator heard.

In the following months, Person A received “documents purporting to show details of treatments, MRI scans [and] communications from a consultant” regarding Mr Saad’s condition.

Mr Saad also convinced Person A to invest in what he was told was a pharmaceutical warehouse, with both Mr Saad and Person A listed as directors when the company was registered with Companies' House, the committee heard.

After his fraudulent activity – which also included creating false invoices for construction work supposedly carried out for the pharmaceutical warehouse – was eventually discovered by Person A, Mr Saad confessed to seeking to secure funds to cover his debts.

He was subsequently sentenced to three counts of fraud and 21 months of imprisonment, and Liverpool Crown Court also ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £140, the GPhC heard.

The council relied on the registrant’s certificate of convictions from March 11, 2021 as evidence of the three counts of fraud for which he was convicted.

 

Addiction “took over” Mr Saad’s life

 

Mr Saad – who represented himself during the hearing – argued that “his fitness to practise was not currently impaired” despite his convictions, as he had received treatment and recovered from the “gambling addiction which effectively took over his life” at the time.

The actions that lead to his convictions “were an isolated periodic event”, the registrant stated, and there was “no risk of repetition”.

“Never did I use my profession to gain these funds,” he told the committee. His fraudulent actions were carried out as “a business entrepreneur”, he claimed, rather than as a pharmacist.

Mr Saad also expressed remorse over his actions, gave evidence that he would "somehow or other" repay Person A, and said that he "has and will continue to repay his debt to society”, the committee heard. He noted that he had no fitness to practise history.

 

GPhC: Registrant “brought profession into disrepute”

 

However, the committee rejected Mr Saad’s “interpretation of events”, stating that he had “used his position as a qualified pharmacist to raise funds" from the person and company involved "by virtue of his stated intention to invest in a pharmacy in the USA, and further to open a warehouse in England, for which he stated that he needed a tablet warehouse to be constructed".

The registrant’s conduct and convictions both demonstrated that he “had not behaved in a trustworthy manner” or “with honesty and integrity”, the committee wrote.

“His behaviour in obtaining the advances under all three allegations was of the worst possible kind”, the committee stated, as it was “planned in advance, with some complexity, and was designed to completely deceive” the person and company involved.

“Nothing short of a removal would satisfy the need to maintain public confidence in the profession,” it concluded.

It ruled that Mr Saad’s fitness to practise was impaired as he had used his profession as a pharmacist to “repeatedly extract significant sums of monies […] over a prolonged period of ten months”, choosing to remove Mr Saad from the register, decision effective March 4, 2021.

A GPhC spokesperson confirmed to C+D today (April 11) that Mr Saad did not appeal the decision.

Read the full determination here.

 

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact Pharmacist Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 0808 168 2233/0808 168 5133 for free

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