Prescription Drug Fraud On the Rise
On July 13, 2017, federal officials announced that they were filing charges against more than 400 individuals for their roles in multiple fraud schemes involving about $1.3 billion in false Medicare billings. According to the FBI, the coordinated nationwide sweep by more than 1,000 law enforcement personnel—operating as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force—was the largest action to date.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force Team analyzes data and helps prosecute alleged offenders for health care fraud schemes, including prescription drug fraud cases. One of the examples officials used to illustrate the types of the crimes committed by the 412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts included a Houston physician and pain management clinic owner who saw 60 to 70 clients a day and allegedly issued medically unnecessary prescriptions for hydrocodone in exchange for $300 cash per visit.
“It’s obvious to anyone who picks up a newspaper or turns on the news that the nation is in the midst of a crisis,” FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe said at a July 13 press conference at the U.S. Department of Justice. “Opioid abuse destroys lives and it devastates families. This week, we arrested once-trusted doctors, pharmacists, and other medical professionals who were corrupted by greed. These people inflicted a special kind of damage.”
More than 120 people were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics as part of the 412 individuals charged in the fraud schemes. In addition to possible federal charges, a person could also be prosecuted for alleged prescription drug crimes under Texas state law.
Attorney for Prescription Drug Fraud Defense in Austin, TX
Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.129(a-1) establishes that a person commits a fraud offense if he or she, with intent to obtain a controlled substance or combination of controlled substances that is not medically necessary for the person or an amount of a controlled substance or substances that is not medically necessary for the person, obtains or attempts to obtain from a practitioner a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, subterfuge, or concealment of a material fact.
Under Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.129(b), a person also commits fraud if he or she knowingly or intentionally makes, distributes, or possesses a punch, die, plate, stone, or other thing designed to print, imprint, or reproduce an actual or simulated trademark, trade name, or other identifying mark, imprint, or device of another on a controlled substance or the container or label of a container for a controlled substance, so as to make the controlled substance a counterfeit substance; or manufactures, delivers, or possesses with intent to deliver a counterfeit substance.
Delivering Prescription Drugs in Austin, Texas
Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.129(c) also makes it illegal for an individual to deliver a prescription or a prescription form for other than a valid medical purpose in the course of professional practice, or possess a prescription for a controlled substance or a prescription form unless the prescription or prescription form is possessed:
- during the manufacturing or distribution process;
- by a practitioner, practitioner’s agent, or an institutional practitioner for a valid medical purpose during the course of professional practice;
- by a pharmacist or agent of a pharmacy during the professional practice of pharmacy;
- under a practitioner’s order made by the practitioner for a valid medical purpose in the course of professional practice; or
- by an officer or investigator authorized to enforce this chapter within the scope of the officer’s or investigator’s official duties.
The Law Office of Kevin Bennett represents individuals accused of “doctor shopping” and many other prescription drug offenses. Kevin Bennett is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Austin who aggressively defends individuals in Lago Vista, West Lake Hills, Pflugerville, Bee Cave, Lakeway, Sunset Valley, and many other nearby locations in Central Texas.