Yesterday Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered remarks on the Department of Justice’s nationwide effort to charge more than 600 individuals with health care fraud related to the opioid crisis. This is the most significant effort yet in the administration’s quest to stem the opioid epidemic.
Hopefully, the Department will continue to take an active interest in these pursuits as well as whistleblower actions targeted at the opioid issue. Here are the remarks in full:
Good morning, and thank you all for being here.
Last July the Department of Justice announced a record-breaking enforcement action against health care fraud. We coordinated the efforts of more than 1,000 state and federal law enforcement agents to charge more than 400 defendants—including 56 doctors—with more than $1.3 billion in fraud.
Today I am announcing that we are breaking records again.
The Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, is announcing the largest health care fraud takedown operation in American history.
This year we are charging 601 people, including 76 doctors, 23 pharmacists, 19 nurses, and other medical personnel with more than $2 billion in medical fraud.
Much of this fraud is related to our ongoing opioid crisis—which is the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. Some of our most trusted medical professionals look at their patients—vulnerable people suffering from addiction—and they see dollar signs.
Since January 2017, we have charged nearly 200 doctors and another 220 other medical personnel for opioid-related crimes. Sixteen of those doctors prescribed more than 20.3 million pills illegally.
Even before today’s announcement, in Fiscal 2017 our OCDETF Task Forces indicted more than 6,500 defendants in opioid-related investigations and seized more than $150 million from them.
In this latest operation, with the help of our fabulous partners at HHS, we have charged another 162 people—including 32 doctors—with the illegal distribution of opioids.
This is the most doctors, the most medical personnel, and the most fraud that the Department of Justice has ever taken on in any single law enforcement action. This is the most defendants we’ve ever charged with health care fraud. It’s also the most opioid-related fraud defendants we’ve ever charged in a single enforcement action.
These cases are vitally important not only to the victims of these fraudsters, but to the entire country. Many of these fraudsters have stolen our tax dollars—and many have helped flood our streets with drugs.
For example, one doctor allegedly defrauded Medicare of more than $112 million by distributing 2.2 million unnecessary doses of drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl.
In another case, 13 defendants in one fraud scheme allegedly defrauded taxpayers of more than $126 million, much of which was intended to pay for health care for our troops.
These are despicable crimes and we’re not going to tolerate them.
Indeed, working with our partner, Secretary Azar and his fine team at HHS, our tactics at finding evidence of fraud are only becoming more sophisticated and more effective.
As Attorney General I have put in place new tools that are helping us to find the fraudsters and gather the evidence needed to put them in jail.
One of these tools is the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit – a new data analytics program that focuses specifically on opioid-related health care fraud. This data analytics team can tell us important information, like who is prescribing the most drugs, who is dispensing the most drugs, and whose patients are dying of overdoses.
As part of this initiative, I have assigned a dozen experienced prosecutors in districts to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud. I have sent these prosecutors to where they are especially needed.
Today is a historic day—but our work is not finished. We are just getting started. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.
We will use the new tools that I have mentioned to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and stealing our hard-earned tax dollars.
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.
I believe that is already deterring and preventing fraud. In two districts where we have Health Care Fraud Strike Forces, we have seen a 20 percent drop in Medicare Parts A & B billings. That equates to over a $2 billion savings for the taxpayers.
I want to thank Secretary Azar for his leadership and for his indispensable partnership in this effort. I also want to thank the dedicated DEA, FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and HHS personnel for their valuable assistance and teamwork.
I want to thank all of the 151 DOJ prosecutors, all of the staff and agents who did their part to make today possible. They have made the entire Department proud. DOJ personnel from 58 federal districts participated in this operation—that’s a majority of all U.S. Attorney’s offices and the most that have ever participated in a health care fraud enforcement action.
Above all I think that we owe a major debt of gratitude to the more than 1,000 law enforcement officers—state, federal, local, and tribal—involved in these cases. I want to thank them and their families for their service to this country. Thank you and now I’ll turn this over to my friend Secretary Azar.