Doctors Involved In A $20 Million Opioid Scam Charged With Fraud
Two doctors and several conspirators appeared in court in Detroit to face charges over their involvement in a massive prescription opioid scam worth roughly $20 million.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider charged 60-year-old Dr. Michelle Ritter and Dr. Charise Valentine, 62, Wednesday with several crimes, including conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription drugs. The owner of Orthopedic Medical Building Inc. in Detroit, 48-year-old Iris Winchester, along with two employees, also face opioid distribution charges for their roles in the distribution operation, reported The Detroit News.
The scheme was devised in June 2016 and involved writing prescriptions for patients with no need for opioids, which were then sold on the street at prices ranging from $17 per pill to $45 per pill, depending on the region. Overall, the doctors issued 674,500 prescription doses of opioids, carrying an estimate street value of roughly $20 million. (RELATED: Sessions Announces Charges For 601 People In Largest Health Care Fraud Bust In History)
“We have a genuine and devastating epidemic of opiate abuse in this country which is compounded by those that prey on the vulnerable,” said FBI Detroit Special Agent in Charge Timothy Slater, according to The Detroit News.
The Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making progress in the fight against both smugglers and medical providers taking advantage of the national opioid epidemic. Federal authorities have charged nearly 200 doctors for criminal activity linked to opioid medications since January 2017, along with 220 medical workers.
Officials with the Department of Justice charged on July 27 a West Virginia doctor accused of recklessly prescribing opioids between 2013 and February 2018 that were linked two deaths.
Opioids accounted from 42,249 of the lives lost to drugs in 2016, a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were roughly 46,466 opioid-related deaths in 2017, though the numbers are not yet final.
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans younger than 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.