Justice Department Announces Enforcement Action Charging 12 Medical Professionals with Opioid Distribution Offenses

Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force Combats Unlawful Prescribing Amidst Continuing Opioid Epidemic

The Department of Justice, together 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 related to the unlawful distribution of opioids. Twelve of the defendants were medical professionals at the time of these alleged offenses.

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

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

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