Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski Gives Remarks at the Texas Healthcare Fraud and Opioid Takedown Press Conference

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon.

Healthcare fraud is a betrayal of the public trust.  It drains valuable resources from programs designed to serve the vulnerable.  It deprives people with real needs of legitimate medical care.  And it steals from the pockets of taxpayers.    

It is my honor today to stand alongside U.S. Attorneys Erin Neely Cox, John Bash, and Joe Brown, and our partners from the FBI, HHS-OIG, and the DEA, to announce our latest efforts in the ongoing fight against healthcare fraud.  The Department of Justice is using every tool at our disposal to identify and prosecute the medical professionals and others who put their personal greed above the public good. 

Today we are announcing federal charges against 58 criminal defendants across the state of Texas, who participated in fraud schemes entailing $66 million in losses and 6.2 million pills.  Those charges are the result of the dedicated efforts of the Criminal Division’s Health Care Fraud Strike Forces, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Southern, Western, and Eastern Districts of Texas.  

As is always the case when we announce new charges, the allegations I will discuss are just that – allegations – and the defendants in these cases are innocent until proven guilty. 

Among those we have charged today are 16 medical professionals, including 6 doctors and 7 pharmacists. 

The defendants include two doctors who were allegedly paid by the owners of three Dallas/Fort Worth-area pharmacies to refer unnecessary prescriptions for Department of Labor Office of Worker’s Compensation claimants.  The alleged scheme entailed over $158 million dollars in fraudulent claims for expensive compound creams that were excessive, never needed, or never wanted.  It involved efforts to evade taxes resulting in approximately $23 million in tax losses.  And it has resulted, thus far, in the freezing of over $60 million in assets traced to the alleged fraud.

The defendants also include two doctors who are charged with separately scheming to defraud TRICARE, a healthcare program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families.  These two doctors allegedly sought, through compounding pharmacies in Fort Worth, to enrich themselves at the expense of those who lay their lives on the line for this country. 

Today’s defendants also include owners and pharmacists from a “pill-mill” pharmacy in Houston.  From March 2018 through September 2019, this pharmacy dispensed over 760,000 pills of oxycodone, hydrocodone, carisoprodol, and alprazolam.  The pharmacy allegedly dispensed these substances on counterfeit prescription pads associated with doctors whose identities had been stolen.  And it allegedly worked with “runners” who brought these illegitimate prescriptions to them to be filled for cash-only – all the while charging nearly five times the market value for equivalent oxycodone and hydrocodone prescriptions. 

Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be in Houston to announce a major opioid takedown against dozens of defendants involving over 23 million opioid pills.  Today’s additional charges—as well as the recent creation of our Health Care Fraud Strike Force in the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio—are proof positive that the Criminal Division continues to dedicate resources to root out healthcare fraud in Texas and elsewhere, and we are doing so strategically and aggressively. 

As we have seen time and again, our Health Care Fraud Strike Force model—a model that powerfully combines data analytics with traditional investigative techniques—produces real results.  The data in our possession shines an inescapable light on those dirty doctors, clinic owners, pharmacists, and others who may have long believed they could perpetrate their frauds behind closed doors. 

I hope today’s action brings home a simple message for those who engage in such despicable frauds:  You are not invisible.  Our ability to detect, prosecute, and prevent these crimes grows more sophisticated with each passing day.  And your day is coming.    

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Author: September 18, 2019

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