CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The work of one assistant U.S. attorney within West Virginia’s Southern District is now focused solely on health care fraud cases linked to opioids under a pilot program from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Haley Bunn, who is based in Charleston, has transitioned into the new role created within the Violent Crime and Narcotics Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division.
“She’s very experienced and she’s very motivated, very dynamic. We’re very excited to have this opportunity.” U.S. Attorney Carol Casto said of Bunn who’s prosecuted similar cases in recent years.
“Things like pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes,” Casto explained.
Such cases, she said, have been part of the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for nearly 20 years.
“This allows us to dedicate and to specialize and allows for specific training of one assistant United States attorney and this will be her sole purpose.”
In addition to the Southern District of West Virginia, the following 11 districts across the U.S. were selected for funding in the three-year pilot program for AUSAs:
Middle District of Florida
Eastern District of Michigan
Northern District of Alabama
Eastern District of Tennessee
District of Nevada
Eastern District of Kentucky
District of Maryland
Western District of Pennsylvania
Southern District of Ohio
Eastern District of California
Middle District of North Carolina
“We’re very pleased that the federal government, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney General of the United States, recognize the crisis that we have in West Virginia and are allowing us these additional resources to fight it,” Casto said.
“On the other hand, it’s a really sad day for us that we’re in this situation and I believe that we are engaged in a true battle against evil and that we are truly fighting for our lives here.”
In August, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of the new AUSA positions for the three-year period along with the formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit during a speech in Columbus, Oh.
“With these new resources, we will be better positioned to identify, prosecute, and convict some of the individuals contributing to these tens of thousands of deaths a year,” Sessions said at that time.
“The Department is determined to attack this opioid epidemic and I believe these resources will make a difference.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for West Virginia’s Southern District includes 23 counties split into four divisions that include Charleston, Huntington, Beckley and Bluefield.
The nomination of Stuart, a former state Republican Party chair and chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign in West Virginia, is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.