The United States Department of Justice is playing hardball with anyone they believe is trafficking drugs through “pill mills.” In the most recent series of arrests, 58 people — including at least 16 doctors or other medical professionals — were charged with diverting 6.2 million opioid pills and also for Medicaid fraud for their roles in what is alleged to be a statewide scheme.
The investigation involved several different federal agencies, including the Department of Labor, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). This is the second major drug bust to target pill mills in Texas within the last month. Three weeks before the most recent arrests, a Houston Strike Force filed charges against dozens of people believed to have put 23 million opioid pills into the market.
This highlights how the focus on drug enforcement has shifted recently both within Texas and around the rest of the country. Law enforcement officials are increasingly likely to target doctors and other healthcare professionals for investigation. The image of “drug traffickers in shady alleys” has been largely replaced by the image of “drug traffickers in lab coats and scrubs” in both the popular and legal mindsets because of the opioid epidemic.
As one official put it, “Texas may have four U.S. Attorneys, but we are focused on one health care mission: Shutting down pill mills and rooting out corruption in health care.”
It doesn’t take much to land on the radar of law enforcement where opioids are concerned — although many medical professionals may just now be awakening to that possibility. If you find yourself under investigation for trafficking in opioids (or believe you may be under investigation), talk to an experienced defense attorney promptly.