Federal authorities released an announcement last Thursday stating that over 400 people have been accused of involvement in health care fraud scams that totaled about $1.3 billion in false billings. Many of the charged people were directly involved in prescribing or distributing opioids.
Out of the 412 people charged, 115 were doctors, nurses or other licensed medical professionals. Other 120 were accused of opioid-related crimes.
“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion-dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed.”
“We are sending a clear message to criminals across the country: We will find you. We will bring you to justice. And, you will pay a very high price for what you have done,” Sessions said.
Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe noted that some of the doctors that were recently charged had written more prescriptions for controlled substances in a month that did some entire hospitals.
“These people inflicted a special kind of damage,” he said, adding that investigators found opioid addicts “packed in standing room-only waiting rooms” at doctors’ offices waiting to get their prescription painkillers.”
McCabe added that among the arrested 412 people there were a lot of professionals in this area of expertise.
“Narcotics officers have arrested schoolteachers, doctors, nurses and fellow law enforcement personnel,” McCabe said. “Many who succumb to the lure of the opioid high are kids.”
So far authorities have disclosed a couple of examples of what investigators have found.
One case speaks of six Michigan doctors that billed Medicare for $164 million in false claims after prescribing painkillers that were later resold on the street.
Another one, a Houston clinic doctor was accused of writing 12,000 opioid prescriptions for over two million doses.
According to the report, the largest concentration of suspects was produced in South Florida, with 77 people accused of $141 million in false billings for home health care, mental health service and drug fraud.
“Health care fraud is a reprehensible crime,” said Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson. “It not only represents a theft from taxpayers who fund these vital programs, but impacts the millions of Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid.”
According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this operation began with tips from communities where the law was violated and from “very sophisticated computer programs that identify outliers.”