Department of Justice Announces Enforcement Actions Charging 12 Healthcare Professionals with Opioid Distribution Offenses | Takeover bid

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The Department of Justice, in conjunction with federal and state law enforcement partners, today announced criminal charges against 14 defendants in eight federal districts across the United States for their alleged involvement in crimes linked to the illegal distribution of opioids. Twelve of the defendants were medical professionals at the time of these alleged offences.

“Today’s Opioid Enforcement Action highlights the Justice Department’s latest efforts to respond to the nation’s opioid epidemic, which in the past year alone has tragically killed more than 75,000 people in the United States due to an overdose,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Poli, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work tirelessly with its partners to combat this outbreak and seek to prevent the next tragic loss of life.”

One of the cases announced today accused a Kentucky dentist of illegally prescribing morphine. In August 2020, this dentist dispensed three opioid prescriptions to a 24-year-old patient over a five-day period. The patient died of a morphine overdose, allegedly due to one of the prescriptions the dentist issued during those five days. Another case accused a former Tennessee nurse and clinic director of illegally obtaining opioid painkillers for personal use and further distribution by filling fraudulent prescriptions on behalf of current and former hospice patients. According to the indictment, the defendant then used the patients’ hospice benefits to cover the costs of illegally obtained prescription opioids. A third case accused a Kentucky doctor of illegally prescribing opioids to patients whose health treatments were paid for by taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The defendant allegedly exploited these patients for continued access in order to bill these programs for medically unnecessary procedures.

“When we helped announce the ARPO Strike Force in 2019, we said it would be a lasting commitment to eradicating the illegal trafficking of opioids by prescription pad and we meant it,” the prosecutor said. American Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “As the results announced today show, we will continue to take coordinated enforcement action to address the opioid scourge plaguing the region.”

Today’s announcement also highlighted the continued efforts of the Appalachian Region Prescription Opioid Task Force (ARPO) Health Care Fraud Unit. Over the past three years, ARPO has charged 111 defendants with crimes related to the illegal distribution of prescription opioids. Together, these defendants have issued prescriptions for more than 115 million controlled substance pills.

Since its inception, ARPO has partnered with federal and state law enforcement agencies and US attorney offices throughout Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia to prosecute medical professionals and others involved in the illegal prescribing and distribution of opioids.

“The FBI and our partners are working together to address the opioid crisis and hold accountable those who abuse their prescribing privileges,” said Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office. “We urge the public to help us keep the community safe by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI with advice on those who illegally prescribe opioids.”

“Those who illegally prescribe opioids are not only undermining essential efforts to fight the epidemic; they also put patients at risk of overdose and physical harm,” said Inspector General Christi A. Grimm of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG). “This enforcement action demonstrates HHS-OIG’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable bad actors who abuse their status as health care providers and exploit the coronavirus outbreak. ‘Opioids for personal use.’

“Physicians and healthcare professionals are responsible for prescribing medicines responsibly and in the best interests of their patients. Today’s takedown targets medical providers across the country whose greed drove them to abandon that responsibility in favor of criminal profiteering,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram. “The DEA will use every tool at its disposal to stop drug diversion and fraud. And we work tirelessly every day to make our communities safer and healthier.

Additionally, the Center for Program Integrity at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken six administrative actions against providers for their alleged involvement in these violations.

“Patient care and safety are top priorities for us, and CMS has taken administrative action against six providers to protect critical resources entrusted to Medicare while protecting people with Medicare,” the CMS Administrator said. Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “These actions to combat fraud, waste, and abuse in our federal programs would not be possible without the close and successful partnership of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Office of the Department of Health and Social Services. Inspector General.”

United States Attorneys William S. Thompson for the Southern District of West Virginia, Carlton S. Shier IV for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Francis M. Hamilton III for the Eastern District of Tennessee joined the announcement today .

Today’s enforcement actions were led and coordinated by Senior Deputy Chief Kilby Macfadden and ARPO Deputy Chiefs Alexis Gregorian and Jillian Willis. The Fraud Section ARPO Strike Force and Health Care Fraud Unit Strike Forces in Miami and New Jersey, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern District of Alabama , the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of New Jersey, the Eastern District of Tennessee, and the Southern District of West Virginia are pursuing these cases. Descriptions of each case involved in today’s enforcement action are available on the department’s website at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/opioid-enforcement-action- 2022.

In addition to the DEA, FBI, and HHS-OIG, the Kentucky and Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Units; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; United States Postal Inspection Service; and other federal and local law enforcement agencies participated in the enforcement action.

An indictment, complaint or information is only an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.

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For all patients affected by law enforcement operations, information regarding available treatment programs and where patients can turn for help is available as follows:

Alabama: The Alabama Department of Mental Health has a dedicated phone number to connect those affected by the shutdown. The toll-free number for drug addicts is 1-844-307-1760. Information about addiction and opioids is available at the following websites:

http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/pharmacy/opioid-and-heroin.html

https://mh.alabama.gov/understanding-the-opioid-crisis/

Florida: If you are in Florida and are suffering from addition, you can find help by calling 1-800-662-4357 or finding local services at https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs /samh/get-help.shtml .

Kentucky: If you are in Kentucky and suffer from addiction, you can find help by calling 833-8KY-HELP or logging on to Findhelpnowky.org.

Ohio: If you are looking for help in Ohio, please call the OhioMHAS Patient Helpline at 1-877-275-6364

Tennessee: If you are looking for help in Tennessee:

  • For a referral to drug treatment services, call the Tennessee REDLINE: 800-889-9789.
  • In the event of a mental health crisis, call the National Crisis Line: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471).
  • For help accessing addiction or mental health services, call the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Helpline: 800-560-5767 or 615-532-6700. This line is busy Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT.

New Jersey: If you are looking for help in New Jersey, please call the REACH Helpline at 1-844-732-2465.

West Virginia: If you are in West Virginia and are suffering from addiction, you can find help by calling 1-844-HELP-4WV or logging on to https://HelpandHopeWV.org.

For people seeking help in other statesplease call 1-800-662-HELP

The Fraud Section uses the Victim Notification System (VNS) to provide victims with case information and updates related to this case. Victims with questions can contact the Victim Assistance Unit in the Fraud Section by calling the Victim Assistance Hotline at 1-888-549-3945 or emailing victimassistance.fraud @usdoj.gov. To learn more about victims’ rights, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/victim-rights-derechos-de-las-v-ctimas. If you believe you are a victim of the conduct described in any of these cases, please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/case/ARPO.


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