CINCINNATI — The U.S. Department of Justice's Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) strike force announced 12 new charges against physicians accused of over-prescribing opioids in a press conference on Wednesday.
The 12 defendants are located throughout the U.S., but officials said some of the cases involve Northern Kentucky medical professionals. Officials said 14 people are being charged overall; the additional two defendants are charged for crimes related to the distribution of opioids, but were not medical professionals.
"These medical professionals, let me make clear, are operating no different than any drug dealer," said Ken Parker, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. "They are simply donning white coats while they are prescribing dangerous levels of opioids."
The strike force was formed in 2018 and has since charged 111 people with crimes related to illegal distribution of opioids. Officials said those 111 people are accused of issuing prescriptions that amounted to over 115 million controlled substance pills.
During Wednesday's announcement, the 14 new charges include a Kentucky dentist accused of over-prescribing morphine to a 24-year-old patient. Officials said the dentist issued three opioid prescriptions to the patient over five days; the patient died of an overdose officials said was from one of the dentist's prescriptions.
Another case in Kentucky involved a doctor over-prescribing opioids to patients utilizing taxpayer funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Officials said the doctor intentionally over-prescribed for those patients in order to bill Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary procedures.
Overall, the ARPO strike force has been responsible for charges against hundreds of medical professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists and nurse practitioners.
In October 2021, former Kenton County Coroner, Dr. David Suetholz, pleaded not guilty to federal drug charges alleging he illegally dispensed opioids to three patients. Suetholz was the elected county coroner for 30 years and operated a private practice in the Ft. Wright area. He is scheduled to face a jury trial in September.
In August 2020, a federal judge sentenced former Hamilton physician Saad Sakkal to 20 years in prison for using his medical practice to deal opioids.
According to testimony from Sakkal’s trial, patients came to his office under the influence of drugs and left with prescriptions for more opiates.
Federal prosecutors also accused former Sycamore Township physician Raymond Noschang of operating a 'pill mill' for years. Noschang pled guilty to eight counts of unlawful distribution of Oxycodone in October 2020.
During the press conference, Will Rivers, FBI special agent in charge, urged the public to contact the FBI through 1.800.CALL.FBI if they are aware of any medical professionals involved in over-prescribing opioids to patients.
How to Submit a Tip:
- Fill out our Online Tips and Public Leads form at tips.fbi.gov
- Call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324)
- Contact your local field office or closest international office
You can watch the full press conference below:
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