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Gulf Coast Health Care Fraud Strike Force Expanded To Include Eastern District Of Texas

The Strike Force will Focus on Health Care Fraud and Illegal Opioid Prescriptions and Distribution.

U.S. Attorney Stephen Cox of the Eastern District of Texas announced the expansion of the Criminal Division, Fraud Section’s existing Gulf Coast Health Care Fraud Strike Force to include the Eastern District of Texas. The Strike Force is a joint law enforcement effort. It brings together the resources and expertise of the Health Care Fraud Unit in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section (HCF Unit), the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Texas, the Middle District of Louisiana, the Eastern District of Louisiana, and the Southern District of Mississippi. Also, law enforcement partners at the FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other federal and state partners.

“The fight against health care fraud is a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox. “We are honored to join the Department’s Gulf Coast Strike Force and look forward to working together with them and with our law enforcement partners to protect the people of the Eastern District from fraud and abuse and to bring wrongdoers to justice.”

“Each year, healthcare fraud costs the American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division’s Health Care Fraud Strike Forces are a critical tool in the Department of Justice’s efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute those who defraud our healthcare system. We are eager to announce this new partnership with the Eastern District of Texas, which will enhance and expand our efforts to prosecute healthcare fraud and protect American taxpayers.”

“The FBI is the primary agency for exposing and investigating health care fraud. We are pleased that the expansion of the Gulf Coast Health Care Fraud Strike Force into the Tyler area allows us to vigorously pursue the most egregious offenders through coordinated law enforcement operations with our investigative partners,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno.

“Health care fraud is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise,” said FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner. “The FBI Houston Division sees significant success when we partner with multiple agencies to combat health care fraud in our communities. We look forward to expanding these efforts through the Gulf Coast Health Care Fraud Strike Force and continuing to strengthen our partnerships in the Eastern District of Texas.”

“The diversion of prescription pharmaceuticals is a public health epidemic impacting many communities throughout the country. The communities in the Eastern District of Texas are no different,” stated Steven S. Whipple, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Houston Division. “We welcome the specialized prosecutorial resources that the Gulf Coast Strike Force brings to the Eastern District of Texas.”

“The OIG’s unwavering commitment in working with our law enforcement partners throughout the country on Strike Force Teams has resulted in more than a thousand arrests and recovered millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Dallas Special Agent in Charge Miranda Bennett. “OIG looks forward to continuing these important accomplishments through our already dynamic partnerships in the Eastern District of Texas.”

The HCF Unit operates 15 Strike Forces across the United States, in 24 federal districts, including Miami, Tampa, and Orlando, Florida; Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan; Houston, Texas; Brooklyn, New York; the Gulf Coast; Tampa, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and Dallas, Texas, along with the National Rapid Response Strike Force located in Washington, D.C. The Strike Forces represent a partnership between the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the FBI and HHS-OIG, and other federal and local agency partners.

Prosecutors and data analysts with the HCF Unit, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Texas, and special agents with the FBI, HHS-OIG, and DEA are the Strike Force. Also, the Gulf Coast Strike Force will work closely with various federal law enforcement agencies. The Strike Force will focus its efforts on aggressively investigating and prosecuting cases involving fraud, waste, and abuse within our national health care programs, and cases involving illegal prescribing and distribution of opioids and other dangerous narcotics.

In September, Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt noted the Strike Force model’s success while announcing<https://www.justice.gov/usao-edtx/pr/largest-health-care-fraud-and-opioid-enforcement-action-department-justice-history> a historic nationwide enforcement action involving 345 charged defendants across 51 federal districts, including more than 100 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals. 

A grand jury indicted five of the defendants in the Eastern District of Texas. Altogether, authorities charged these defendants with submitting more than $6 billion in false and fraudulent claims to federal health care programs and private insurers, including more than $4.5 billion connected to telemedicine, more than $845 million related to substance abuse treatment facilities, or “sober homes,” and more than $806 million linked to other health care fraud and illegal opioid distribution schemes across the country.