Federal officials have charged 58 individuals with illegally selling opioids in Texas in a wide-ranging pill mill scheme.
At a press conference Wednesday, officials with the United States Department of Justice announced that health care workers were selling or over-prescribing medications without a legitimate medical reason.
Of those charged, 16 were doctors or medical professionals, and 20 were charged for their role in diverting opioids, a U.S. Department of Justice press release said. The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible.
The charges also involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals allegedly involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, the release said.
“Healthcare should revolve around patients’ well-being – not providers’ personal interests,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas said in the release. “When medical professionals line their own pockets by submitting false insurance claims or prescribing unnecessary medications, equipment, or treatments, it not only drains taxpayer coffers – but it makes healthcare more expensive for everyone else. We cannot allow the healthcare industry to become bloated by fraud.”
High numbers of prescriptions and medical equipment were being prescribed in a complex scheme to inundate the market with hydrocodone, carisoprodol and oxycodone pills that were sold at the highest dosages for cash, authorities said.
The schemes involved health care workers of all fields and included nurse practitioners, pharmacists and chiropractors.
The fraud scheme cost agencies such as Medicaid; Medicare; TRICARE, a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families; the Department of Labor’s Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs and private insurers more than $66 million and 6.2 million pills.
In some cases patients who were prescribed these pills never received the medications that were paid for.
Charges were brought against people in all four federal districts in Texas. Those charged in the Northern District of Texas include:
▪ Dr. Brian Carpenter and Jerry Hawrylak were charged for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud TRICARE through a compounding pharmacy located in Fort Worth.
▪ Michael Charles Braddick, Kyle Martin Hermesch, and Bioflex Medical were charged for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud the Department of Labor- Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs. Bioflex Medical is located in Dallas.
▪ Nehaj Rizvi was charged for his alleged participation in a scheme to defraud Medicare through Life Spring Housecall Physicians Inc., a company located in Dallas.
▪ Leah Hagen and Michael Hagen were charged for their alleged participation in conspiracies to pay and receive kickbacks and launder money through Metro DME Supply and Ortho Pain Solutions, both durable medical equipment companies in Arlington.
▪ Nilesh Patel, Dr. Craig Henry and his brother Dr. Bruce A. Henry, who practiced in Tarrant County, were charged for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud TRICARE through marketing company RxConsultants and a compounding pharmacy located in Fort Worth.
▪ Bruce Stroud and Bobbi Stroud were charged for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud Medicare through New Horizons Durable Medical Equipment, Striffin Medical Supply, and 4B Ortho Supply, all durable medical equipment companies located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
▪ Jamshid Noryian, Dehshid Nourian, Christopher Rydberg, Leyla Nourian, Ashraf Mofid, Dr. Leslie Benson, Dr. Michael Taba, and Ali Khavarmanesh were charged for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud the Department of Labor- Office of Worker’s Compensation and Blue Cross Blue Shield and conspiracies to launder money and evade the payment of taxes through Ability Pharmacy, Industrial & Family Pharmacy, and Park Row Pharmacy, all located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.