The U.S. Justice Department
this afternoon announced a massive national medical fraud investigation that included the indictment of 24 people in Arkansas. The charges stem from using fraudulent billings to get government reimbursement, including for dangerous opioids and other drugs.
All told 412 defendants in 41 federal judicial districts were charged, including 115 licensed medical professionals. The charges cover $1.3 billion in false billings.
Also, the federal Health and Human Services Department has begun action to suspend 295 providers — doctors, nurses and pharmacists — from government insurance programs.
In Arkansas, three indictments charging a total of 24 people — all related to diverting prescription drugs to the streets.
* In one, four men from Houston were charged with breaking into the Health-Way pharmacy in Beebe on Feb. 25, 2016 to get controlled drugs. They were subsequently linked to a network traveling the country to burglarize pharmacies. The four and eight others were responsible for stealing more than $1 million worth of pills, a government release said.
* In another indictment, three men were charged with conspiring to possess drugs without a prescription. They related to $150,000 worth of fraudulently obtained oxycodone.
* In another, officers say they found a prescription forgery operations headed by Michael "Rooster" McClellan, 32, of North Little Rock. He and others used forged prescriptions to obtain drugs. A news release said the investigation began after a break-in at McClellan's home. Police found drug paraphernalia and other evidence of illegal activity. That led to a search warrant for McClellan's computers, which provided information about the extent of the operation. Investigators also found ledgers with 100 names used to obtain bogus prescriptions. McClellan and eight others are charged.
A government news release emphasized the rising toll of opioid addiction. It said:
The charges announced today aggressively target schemes billing Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE (a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families) for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications that often were never even purchased and/or distributed to beneficiaries. The charges also involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a particular focus for the Department.