Four hundred twelve people are facing charges of healthcare fraud and opioid-related crimes, the US Justice Department announced.
This is the largest healthcare fraud takedown in US history, the department said. It had cost the government around $1.3 billion in taxpayer money across 20 states, Reuters reports. The arrests included 120 doctors, and others who had a hand in prescribing and distributing opioid painkillers.
In Michigan, six doctors were accused of running a scam to prescribe patients with unnecessary painkillers, and billing Medicare for $164 million in fake claims.
In Florida, a fake rehab clinic recruited opioid addicts by providing gift cards, visits to strip clubs, and drugs, costing $58 million in fabricated treatments and tests, prosecutors said.
In Houston, a doctor wrote over 12,000 prescriptions for opioids — enough for two million doses, USA Today reports.
Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General, said that this takedown further reflects the “enormity of the fraud challenge we face.” He said,
This problem is compounded by the fact that our country is in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our history.
In 2015 alone, opioids and prescription painkillers were responsible for the deaths of over 33,000 people in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem remains widespread, affecting thousands more across the country from 2016 until this year, and costing millions more.
Sessions added that these charges make this crackdown the largest of its kind in American history. Many doctors, nurses and pharmacists put profit ahead of the welfare of their patients, he added, even turning their practices into “multimillion-dollar criminal enterprises.”
“They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed,” Sessions said. “Their actions not only enrich themselves often at the expense of taxpayers but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start.”
Of the 412 people arrested, 56 are doctors. As a result of the takedown, 295 healthcare providers are now being suspended or banned from taking part in federal health programs.