Federal officials announced Thursday that more than 400 people have been charged with participating in health care fraud scams that totaled about $1.3 billion in false billings. Many charged were involved in prescribing or distributing opioids.
Of the 412 people charged, 115 were doctors, nurses or other licensed medical professionals. 120 people were charged in 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 said some doctors had written more prescriptions for controlled substances in a month than 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 said that those arrested included numerous professionals.
“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.”
Officials released several examples of what investigators found.
In one case, six Michigan doctors billed Medicare for $164 million in false claims after prescribing painkillers that were later resold on the street.
At a Houston clinic, one doctor is charged with writing 12,000 opioid prescriptions for over two million doses.
Officials said South Florida produced the largest concentration of suspects, saying 77 people were charged with $141 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services 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.”
Sessions said the operation began with tips from communities where fraud was taking place and from “very sophisticated computer programs that identify outliers.”
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