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Published On: Mon, Oct 29th, 2018

Nashville to Serve as Hub for Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force

Unites States Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee and Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced today the formation of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force (ARPO Strike Force), a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Health Care Fraud Unit in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section (HCF Unit), the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for nine federal districts in five states, as well as law enforcement partners at the FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  The mission of the ARPO Strike Force is to identify and investigate health care fraud schemes in the Appalachian region and surrounding areas, and to effectively and efficiently prosecute medical professionals and others involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids.

Joining in the announcement were U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant for the Western District of Tennessee; U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey for the Eastern District of Tennessee; U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr. for the Eastern District of Kentucky; U.S. Attorney Russell M. Coleman for the Western District of Kentucky; U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio; U.S. Attorney William J. Powell for the Northern District of West Virginia; U.S. Attorney Michael B. Stuart for the Southern District of West Virginia; U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town for the Northern District of Alabama; Assistant Director Robert Johnson of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary L. Cantrell of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Assistant Administrator John J. Martin of the DEA Diversion Control Division.

“This Strike Force designation will provide us with additional resources to expand our investigative and prosecutorial efforts to identify and prosecute those whose greed and indifference overshadow the health and well-being of our citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Don Cochran.  “We will target criminal conduct at every level of the opioid distribution chain and those that continue to fuel this addictive and deadly epidemic will be held accountable.”

“While the opioid epidemic continues to inflict untold pain and suffering on people across the country, the devastation in the Appalachian region and adjacent areas has been particularly staggering,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “It is all the more reprehensible when unscrupulous physicians and pharmacies contribute to the epidemic by illegally supplying dangerous prescription painkillers.  Working with our partners in U.S. Attorney’s Offices and law enforcement, the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force will combat illegal prescription opioids and health care fraud by holding accountable corrupt medical professionals who seek to profit off the crisis of opioid addiction.”

“The creation of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force will bring together critical resources from the FBI and our partners to fight health care fraud in this region and the growing opioid epidemic that faces the United States,” said FBI Assistant Director Johnson.  “Healthcare fraud touches every corner of the United States, and through this strike force, the FBI will continue our tireless work to combat illegal opioid prescriptions and bring to justice those medical professionals who put their greed over the health and wellbeing of their patients.”

“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on Americans across the country, including the people of the Appalachian region,” said HHS-OIG Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Cantrell. “The Strike Force model is a proven mechanism to target illicit conduct and hold accountable criminals involved in illegal opioid prescription and distribution schemes.  We will continue to work closely with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to curb this damaging epidemic.”

“Our nation’s opioid crisis requires us to work with unprecedented urgency in attacking drug diversion at every level,” said DEA Assistant Administrator Martin.  “These joint strike force efforts will save lives, while allowing us to better target and bring to justice those who facilitate addiction and profit at the expense of the weakest and most afflicted.”

Prior to this announcement, the HCF Unit operated Medicare Fraud Strike Force’s in 12 locations across the United States including Miami, Florida; Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan; Houston, Texas; Brooklyn, New York; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; Tampa/Orlando, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and Dallas, Texas, along with a Corporate Strike Force located in Washington, D.C., and the Newark/Philadelphia Regional Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  The Strike Forces represent a partnership between the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the FBI, HHS-OIG and the DEA.

 

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