58 Charged in DOJ Opioid Takedown in Texas

The Department of Justice's Health Care Fraud Unit revealed Wednesday a multi-jurisdictional investigation in Texas that resulted in 58 people being charged in 21 cases of health care fraud, including doctors, pharmacists and others.

"They are making money by prescribing poison to people in the grips of addiction, that is no different than dropping poison into someone's cup at a dinner party," U.S. District Attorney for Western Texas John Bash said.

The DOJ said those charged were allegedly involved "in Medicare fraud schemes and networks of 'pill mill' clinics resulting in $66 million in loss and 6.2 million pills" being distributed.

Defendants included 16 doctors or medical professionals, including pharmacy owners, chiropractors, pharmacists and nurse practitioners, as well as 20 others charged for their role in diverting opioids, including runners, sales reps and accountants.

Among the companies named were "BioFlex Medical" in Dallas. According to investigators, the company defrauded the Department of Labor - Office of Worker's Compensation fund. NBC 5 attempted to make contact with the company both in person and over the phone, but was unsuccesful. 

"This case is just one of many that show our nation's healthcare system can not bear that strain," U.S. District Attorney for Northern Texas Erin Nealy Cox said.

In all, 20 defendants and seven North Texas companies were named by investigators, stretching from Tarrant to Dallas County. Investigators credited advanced data techniques with helping to propel the investigations. 

The schemes, the DOJ said, targeted Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, Department of Labor-Office of Worker's Compensation Programs and private insurance companies for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications that were never purchased or distributed to beneficiaries. The charges also involve medical professionals allegedly involved in distributing opioids and other prescription narcotics.

The following DOJ officials are taking part in the news conference: Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas, U.S. Attorney John F. Bash of the Western District of Texas, U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown of the Eastern District of Texas, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim S. Braley of the Southern District of Texas.

NBC 5's Jack Highberger contributed to this report.

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