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US Attorney creates task force for health care crimes

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – A new task force from U.S. Attorney Bill Powell’s office in the Northern District is targeting bad actors in the medical field.

Powell announced the creation of the Health Care Crimes Task Force last week

According to Powell, the initiative has been set up to investigate and prosecute opioid diversion, health care fraud, and other illegal activities in the health care field.

He said establishing the task force sends a message that practitioners cannot hide behind their professional license or health care business for illegal activities is a priority for his office.

“This office will not treat a doctor that’s illegally dispensing opioids and different than it deals with a street-level heroin dealer,” Powel told WEPM News in Martinsburg Monday.

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell

Powell said it’s even worse when doctors engage in this type of activity because they know the long-term impacts on their patient.

“The opioids from ‘bad physicians’ is often what leads to that patient becoming the opioid user, the fentanyl user, and ultimately the death down the road.”

Still, Powell said, the task force is not engaging in a witch hunt; he acknowledged that most doctors are looking out for their patients and trying to help.

“This is no attempt to tarnish the image of doctors who are dealing with patients in pain and dealing with opioids in a responsible manner,” he said.

The task force will use the cooperative efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement to identify, investigate and prosecute such cases.

The task force is comprised of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of West Virginia, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the West Virginia Insurance Commission Fraud Unit, and the West Virginia Medicaid Fraud Unit.

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