ROANOKE, Va. - Sixty people across 11 federal districts are being charged for their alleged participation in the illegal prescribing and distributing of opioids and other dangerous narcotics and for health care fraud schemes, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced Wednesday.
That 60 includes 31 doctors, 7 pharmacists, 8 nurse practitioners and 7 other licensed medical professionals.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department's most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division's Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began its work in December. Just four months later, this team of federal agents and 12 prosecutors has charged 60 defendants for alleged crimes related to millions of prescriptions. I am grateful to the Criminal Division, their U.S. Attorney partners, and to the members of the strike force for this outstanding work that holds the promise of saving many lives in Appalachian communities.”
In addition to the cases announced Wednesday, Barr and U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced that the strike force will expand into the Western District of Virginia, making it the 10th ARPO Strike Force district.
The Western District of Virginia contains about 60 percent of the land area in the state and approximately 2.2 million of its citizens.
ARPO is a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Health Care Fraud Unit in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section (HCF Unit), the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for 10 federal districts in six states, as well as law enforcement partners at the FBI, HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In addition, the operation includes the participation of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and multiple State Medicaid Fraud Control Units. The mission of the ARPO Strike Force is to identify and investigate health care fraud schemes in the Appalachian region and surrounding areas, and to effectively and efficiently prosecute medical professionals and others involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids.
Currently, the strike force operates in the following federal districts:
- The Southern District of Ohio
- The Western District of Kentucky
- The Eastern District of Kentucky
- The Middle District of Tennessee
- The Eastern District of Tennessee
- The Western District of Tennessee
- The Northern District of Alabama
- The Northern District of West Virginia
- The Southern District of West Virginia
The charges announced Wednesday involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a priority for the department.
According to the CDC, approximately 115 Americans die every day of an opioid-related overdose.
Copyright 2019 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.