Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning, and thank you all for being here.
This is the 8th year of the Health Care Fraud Takedown. Â
This event again highlights the enormity of the fraud challenge we face. This problem is compounded by the fact that our country is in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our history.
One American dies of a drug overdose every 11 minutes and more than 2 million Americans are ensnared in addiction to prescription painkillers.
Every day, as a result of drug abuse, American families are being bankrupted and broken apart, friendships ended, and promising lives cut short. Drug addiction is causing more and more crime and violence in communities across the country.
Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients. Â Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. 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. The consequences are real: emergency rooms, jail cells, futures lost, and graveyards.
And so today, 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.
The Department of Justice coordinated efforts between our Criminal Division, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, Health and Human Services and more than 1,000 state and federal law enforcement agents to charge 412 defendants-including 56 doctors. These defendants have defrauded taxpayers of approximately $1.3 billion.
As a result of this operation, 295 health care providers are now in the process of being suspended or banned from participation in federal health programs.
Among those defendants announced today, 120 have been charged with opioid-related crimes, making this also the largest opioid-related fraud takedown in American history. One group of defendants-including six doctors-are alleged to have operated a scheme in Michigan to prescribe patients with unnecessary opioids, some of which ended up for sale on the street.Â These defendants allegedly billed Medicare for $164 million in false and fraudulent claims.
One fake rehab facility for drug addicts in Palm Beach is alleged to have recruited addicts with gift cards, visits to strip clubs, and even drugs-enabling the company to bill for over $58 million in false treatments and tests.
Another illegal clinic in Houston allegedly gave out prescriptions for cash. Just one doctor at this clinic allegedly gave out 12,000 opioid prescriptions for over 2 million illegal painkiller doses. These defendants have been charged and they will face justice.
While today is a historic day, the Department’s work is not finished. In fact, it is just beginning. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are. We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and stealing our hard-earned tax dollars. We are continuing to work hard to develop even more techniques to identify and prosecute wrongdoers.
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 want to thank Secretary Price for his leadership and for sharing his expertise as a renowned physician. I want to also thank the dedicated HHS personnel for their valuable assistance. I want to thank all of the Department of Justice attorneys, staff and agents who did their part to make today possible. They have made the entire Department proud. Above all I think that we owe a major debt of gratitude to the over 1,000 law enforcement officers 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 Secretary Price.
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