Justice Dept Criminal Division creates New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force to investigate and prosecute illegal prescriptions of opioids

New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force to Combat Unlawful Prescribing Amidst Continuing Opioid Epidemic

The United States Justice Department’s Criminal Division is announcing the formation of the New England Prescription Opioid (NEPO) Strike Force, a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources to identify and investigate health care fraud schemes in the New England region. They will prosecute individuals involved in the illegal distribution of prescription opioids and other prescribed controlled substances. The NEPO Strike Force will primarily target criminal conduct by physicians, pharmacists, and other medical professionals, focusing on both health care fraud and drug diversion offenses, as relevant based upon the facts of the particular case.

“At a time when the United States is losing tens of thousands of Americans to opioid overdoses every year, it has never been more critical to ensure doctors and health care practitioners are prioritizing the safety and health of their patients,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The creation of the New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force further strengthens our important cooperation with partners in the region to hold accountable any practitioner who recklessly distributes opioid medications.”

“The formation of the New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force provides the FBI and our law enforcement partners with important collective resources to combat health care fraud and drug diversion schemes within the region,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI will not tolerate those medical professionals willing to sacrifice patients’ health for their personal profit and will work tirelessly to root out and bring to justice those individuals who illegally distribute prescription opioids and other controlled substances.” 

The NEPO Strike Force will operate as a partnership between prosecutors and data analysts with the Fraud Section’s Health Care Fraud Unit, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, and special agents with HHS-OIG, DEA, and the FBI. It will operate out of the Concord, New Hampshire, area, supporting the three districts that make up the NEPO Strike Force region. In addition, the NEPO Strike Force will work closely with other federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the State Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

Today’s NEPO Strike Force announcement builds on the demonstrated success of the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. Since its inception in late 2018, ARPO has partnered with federal and state law enforcement agencies and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia to prosecute medical professionals and others involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids. Over the past three years, ARPO has charged 111 defendants, collectively responsible for issuing prescriptions for over 115 million controlled substance pills. To date, more than 60 ARPO defendants have been convicted.