60 people across West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky & more arrested in opioid takedown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force announced that 60 people across seven states, including 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licensed medical professionals were charged for their alleged participation in the illegal prescribing and distributing of opioids and other dangerous narcotics and for health care fraud schemes.

The Department of Health and Human Services also announced today that since June 2018, it has excluded over 2,000 individuals from participation in Medicare, Medicaid, and all other Federal health care programs, which includes more than 650 providers excluded for conduct related to opioid diversion and abuse.  

Since July 2017, DEA has issued 31 immediate suspension orders, 129 orders to show cause, and received 1,386 surrenders for cause nationwide for violations of the Controlled Substances Act. 

In the Northern District of West Virginia, a case was brought against an orthopedic surgeon who allegedly used fraudulent prescriptions to obtain tablets of acetaminophen-codeine for his own use.

To obtain the pills, the surgeon allegedly wrote out prescriptions using his DEA number, and in the names of a relative even though the pills were for his own use, using a driver’s license that he had stolen from a colleague to obtain the pills from the pharmacy.

This case was brought in connection with assistance from the DEA and HHS-OIG.

In the Southern District of West Virginia, a doctor was charged with allegedly distributing narcotics, including dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate, and amphetamine salt, to a patient who did not have a medical need for the drugs and whom the doctor never examined.

This case was brought in connection with assistance from the DEA and HHS-OIG.

For the ARPO Strike force locations, in the Southern District of Ohio, six individuals, including two doctors and three registered pharmacists were charged with several counts, including unlawful distribution of controlled substances and conspiracy to obtain controlled substances by fraud.

In one case, a doctor who is alleged to have been at one time the highest prescriber of controlled substances in the state, and several pharmacists are charged with operating an alleged “pill mill” in Dayton, Ohio.

According to the indictment, between October 2015 and October 2017 alone, the pharmacy allegedly dispensed over 1,750,000 million pills.

These cases were brought with assistance from the FBI, DEA, and HHS-OIG, as well as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Ohio; the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio Medical Board

In the Eastern District of Kentucky, a total of five people were charged, including three doctors, a dentist and an office assistant who were charged in connection with several health care fraud and/or controlled substance schemes.

In one case a doctor operating a clinic that focused on pain management allegedly provided pre-signed, blank prescriptions to office staff who then used them to prescribe controlled substances when he was out of the office.

In another case, a solo practitioner who operates a five-clinic family practice focusing on pain management allegedly billed Medicare for urine testing that was not done and for urine testing that was not medically necessary.

A dentist was charged for alleged conduct that included writing prescriptions for opioids that had no legitimate medical purpose and that were outside the usual course of professional practice, removing teeth unnecessarily, scheduling unnecessary follow-up appointments, and billing inappropriately for services.

In yet another case, a doctor was charged for allegedly prescribing opioids to Facebook friends who would come to his home to pick up prescriptions, and for signing prescriptions for other persons based on messenger requests to his office manager, who then allegedly delivered the signed prescriptions in exchange for cash.

These cases were brought with assistance from the FBI, DEA, HHS-OIG, and the Kentucky Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

In addition to the cases announced today, Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today that the ARPO Strike Force will expand into the Western District of Virginia, making it the tenth ARPO Strike Force district.

The ARPO Strike Force is made up of prosecutors and data analysts with the HCF Unit, prosecutors with the 10 U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the region, including the newly added Western District of Virginia, and special agents with the FBI, HHS-OIG and DEA. The ARPO Strike Force operates out of two hubs based in the Cincinnati, Ohio/Northern Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee, areas, supporting the 10 districts that make up the ARPO Strike Force region. In addition, the APRO Strike Force works closely with other state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, State Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

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