Justice Department charges nearly 200 people in $2.7 billion health care fraud crackdown

The Justice Department announced a sweeping series of charges Thursday against nearly 200 people accused of participating in health care fraud schemes with false claims topping $2.7 billion.

More than 190 defendants, including 76 doctors, nurse practitioners and other licensed medical professionals, were charged over two weeks in federal courts across the country, according to the Justice Department, and the government has seized more than $231 million in cash, luxury vehicles, gold and other assets.

“It does not matter if you are a trafficker in a drug cartel or a corporate executive or medical professional employed by a health care company, if you profit from the unlawful distribution of controlled substances, you will be held accountable,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news conference Thursday.

In one of the alleged schemes, the Justice Department alleges two wound care company owners and two nurse practitioners caused unnecessary and costly wound grafts to elderly Medicare patients – many of whom were terminally ill – as part of an effort to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans age 65 and over.

In a second case, three owners and executives of a wholesale distributor of medications were accused of selling adulterated and misbranded HIV drugs. The drugs were bought through “buyback” schemes, prosecutors allege, in which the defendants bought previously dispensed prescription drugs from patients and then resold them to pharmacies around the country.

Prosecutors say that because of the scheme some patients received mislabeled prescriptions, including one person who passed out and remained unconscious for 24 hours after taking an anti-psychotic drug thinking it was his prescribed HIV medication.

Other cases announced by the Justice Department Thursday accused defendants of unlawfully distributing millions of Adderall pills that weren’t medically necessary, establishing phony sober living homes that claimed to provide addiction treatment and other support to Native Americans, and illegally prescribing or distributing opioids.

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