DEA, DOJ Take Down Pill Mill with Nine Indictments

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section (HCF Unit) executed 36 search warrants, including 15 pharmacies and six “pill mill” clinics, as well as other offices and residences, aimed at disrupting networks of opioid distribution. The DEA also served immediate suspension orders on seven pharmacies and two providers involved in dispensing controlled substances without legitimate medical purpose. In total, 41 individuals have been charged in nine indictments.

According to the Department of Justice release, charges allege that doctors, medical professionals, and pharmacies knew they were distributing and fulfilling prescriptions with no legitimate medical purpose that were outside the usual course of professional practice. Their actions allegedly led to the diversion of approximately 23 million oxycodone, hydrocodone, and carisoprodol pills. 

The DOJ reports that in some cases, “crew leaders” and “runner” filled or had the individuals who posed as patients fill the illegal prescriptions at pharmacies in the Houston, Texas area.

In one case, the owner and pharmacist in charge at one pharmacy acting as a pill mill dispensed the second highest amount of oxycodone 30mg pills of all the pharmacies in the state of Texas, and the ninth highest in the nation. Every single oxycodone pill which was dispended by the pharmacy was in the highest available dosage of the drug.

“This type of criminal activity is, in part, what is fueling the 68,500 overdose deaths per year across the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the DEA’s Houston Division.  “The DEA and our numerous law enforcement partners will not sit silently while drug dealers wearing lab coats conspire with street dealers to flood our communities with over 23 million dangerous and highly addictive pills.”

The DOJ believes some pills were trafficked from Houston to Boston while others were immediately distributed on the streets.

In addition to these cases, Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski and U.S. Attorneys Ryan K. Patrick and John F. Bash also announced that the HCF Strike Force will expand into the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio, making it the 24th district with such a presence.  The HCF Strike Force is a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the HCF Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and law enforcement partners at the FBI, Health and Human Services - Office of the Inspector General and DEA.

“I am excited to team with Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski and U.S. Attorney Patrick to fight healthcare fraud in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley,” said U.S. Attorney Bash.  “Fraud in the healthcare system not only rips off innocent victims and taxpayers, but it also quite often endangers the health of patients – as with the illegal distribution of addictive opioids.  For that reason, it’s a major priority for all of us.”

Posted in The Takedown