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Feds Charge 58 Across Texas With Health Care, Opioid Fraud

Bill Zeeble
Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, talks of the "massive takedown" of alleged health care fraudsters. She's surrounded by officials from the FBI, DEA, IRS, Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies.

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged 58 people across Texas with health care fraud costing at least $66 million, including “pill mill” schemes involving opioids. Doctors and medical professionals are among those facing charges.

These investigations involved numerous agencies including the FBI, Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs, among others. They found alleged abusers of Medicare, Medicaid and other health care agencies.

Justice Department officials say those charged also contributed to the opioid epidemic.

"When medical professionals line their own pockets by submitting false insurance claims or prescribing unnecessary medications or prescribing equipment and treatments that patients don’t really need," said Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, "it not only drains taxpayer coffers but it makes health care more expensive for everyone."

Officials say doctors and pharmacists billed the government for millions of pills using fake IDs. Others purchased medical equipment that wasn’t needed or used.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said this kind of fraud makes health care more expensive for everyone.

"The data in our possession shines an inescapable light on those dirty doctors, clinic owners, pharmacists and others who’ve long believed they could perpetrate their fraud in the dark behind closed doors," Benczkowski said. "You’re not invisible. We can see you. We’re going to find you, and we’re going to prosecute you." 

Officials say these charges resulted in part from the recent formation of the northern district’s own Health Care Fraud Strike Force. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.