Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced federal prosecutors cast a wide net to end what he called the biggest health care fraud operation in the U.S.
Criminal charges were filed against 412 people, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged roles in what Sessions called the “largest health care fraud takedown operation in American history.”
Sessions said at a conference in Washington that all those who “have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients” will be prosecuted by his office. According to Sessions, the suspects were party to more than $1.3 billion in fraudulent billing transactions.
In Michigan, 32 suspects were charged after being accused of money laundering and "drug diversion schemes'' involving about $218 million, according to federal authorities. In one case, six Michigan doctors accused of a scheme to prescribe unnecessary opioids were charged.
They allegedly billed Medicare for $164 million in false claims relating to unnecessary drug tests and other procedures. Some of those prescribed painkillers, authorities said, were resold on the street to addicts.
In Palm Beach, Florida, a fake rehab facility allegedly recruited addicts; it was charged in an alleged scheme involving the submission of over $58 million in fraudulent medical insurance claims. Staffers reportedly recruited addicts with gift cards, visited strip clubs and casinos and then charged millions for false treatments.
Last year, approximately 59,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses, many of them linked to opioid abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“In some cases, we had addicts packed into standing-room-only waiting rooms waiting for these prescriptions,” acting FBI director Andrew McCabe said. “They are a death sentence, plain and simple.”
According to Sessions, almost 300 health care providers are being suspended or banned from participating in federal health care programs.
“They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves, often at the expense of taxpayers, but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start,” Sessions said.
In South Florida, a whopping 77 suspects were charged with a combined $141 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services and pharmacy fraud.