The widespread operations were led by DOJ's Health Care Fraud Unit in conjunction with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a collaboration of DOJ's criminal division, US attorney's offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and HHS' Office of Inspector General.
The charges in part involve billing government programs Medicare and Medicaid along with private insurers for medically unneeded prescription drugs, resulting in losses of more than $2 billion, according to the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. One case involved a pharmacy chain in Texas with fraudulent orders of more than one million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills and selling them for millions of dollars to drug transporters.
The South Florida United States Attorney's Office announced 124 charges against South Florida doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals on Thursday as part of what authorities are calling the largest nationwide takedown on health care fraud and those fueling the opioid crisis.
"Some of our most trusted medical professionals look at their patients - vulnerable people suffering from addiction - and they see dollar signs", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday.
"It is not that we are over-regulating, but doctors and medical practitioners are more aware", he said.More news: How Moses felt after Eagles crashed out of World Cup
According to the Justice Department, the medical professionals were perpetuating the nation's opioid epidemic by unlawfully distributing prescription painkillers.
Arrests were made in states across the country. The takedown involves more than 600 defendants - from doctors and pharmacists, down to billing clerks.
Though numerous cases also involved a variety of schemes to fraudulently bill government healthcare programs, officials sought in the latest crackdown to emphasize their efforts to combat the nation's opioid epidemic.
Patino is accused of submitting claims to Medicare and Medicaid for health care that wasn't performed or wasn't necessary. In many cases, the charges are that patient recruiters, beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare. The treatment facility's CEO, Paul R. Materia, 43, and patient brokers Joseph Lubowitz, 29, and Christopher Fuller, 33, were charged with illegally recruiting patients, paying kickbacks and defrauding healthcare programs by billing for urine testing and substance abuse treatment that were medically unnecessary.
Thomas Carpenter, who was medical director at Foundational Health, a Tampa area clinic, and Caridad Limberg-Gonzalez, who owned the clinic, are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, four counts of health care fraud and three counts of making false statements.