McDowell County man part of federal indictment regarding distribution of opioids

CINCINNATI, Oh. — Federal charges have been filed against more than a dozen people in seven states, including a West Virginia man, for the alleged distribution of opioids.

Frederick De Mesa, 48, of War, was indicted Tuesday for unlawfully distributing controlled substances and for allegedly using a DEA registration of a relative to issue prescriptions for opioids.

Mesa, who is not a medical professional, is accused of issuing prescriptions for Tramadol, according to the indictment.

U.S. Justice Department officials made the announcement Wednesday in Cincinnati as part of the ongoing law enforcement efforts with the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Will Thompson was in attendance.

Most of the cases involve medical professionals.

A Kentucky dentist is accused of unlawfully prescribing morphine leading to an overdose. In Aug. 2020, the dentist issued three opioid prescriptions to a 24 year old patient in a five-day period.

“A patient allegedly died from the morphine prescriptions this dentist issued,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Ken Polite.

Another case involves a former nurse and clinic director in Tennessee who is accused of unlawfully obtaining opioid pain pills for personal use and further distributing them by filling fraudulent prescriptions in the names of current and former hospice patients. According to the indictment, the defendant then used the patients’ hospice benefits to cover the costs of those opioids.

Officials also announced a third case that charged a Kentucky doctor with unlawfully prescribing opioids to patients whose health care treatments were paid for by taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Additional cases are in Ohio, Alabama, Florida and New Jersey.

Polite said the arrests are another example of their work to combat the epidemic and prevent even more misuse of dangerous drugs.

“Our collective work sends a clear message that medical professionals who violate their oath to do no harm and instead exploit vulnerable patients struggling with addiction will be held accountable,” he said.

In the last year alone, 75,000 people have died from a drug overdose in the U.S., Polite said.

“This is a staggering figure. It makes clear that opioid overdoses continue to claim the lives of far too many Americans,” he said.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Ken Parker said he hopes these cases will serve as a “deterrent” to those in the medical community “who engage in bad acts.”

“We will be relentless. We will not let up. These prosecutions will further protect those in the community suffering from addiction and substance abuse issues,” Parker said.

The strike force covers seven states including West Virginia.

Since its inception in 2018, more than 100 people have been arrested for the distribution of 115 million pills in total.

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