The Drug Diversion Task Force was created to help combat the growing abuse and trafficking of prescription drugs. Unscrupulous doctors, physician assistants, and pharmacists may be involved in the illegal distribution of controlled substances, including oxycodone, oxycontin, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and xanex. Task Force members work to identify, investigate and prosecute the illegal sources of prescription pills. Members of the Task Force include the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Tennessee Department of Health, private health insurers and health care providers. Some of the cases prosecuted in our office for these offenses include:
- Dr. John Hancock, a Hawkins County family medicine physician received a 23-year sentence after being convicted by a jury. Hancock improperly wrote prescriptions for controlled substances, to include methadone, morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone, and benzodiazepines, for patients without performing physical examinations and without determining a sufficient medical necessity for the prescriptions. Hancock, who charged patients $80 to $100 in cash for each visit, continued to prescribe drugs having high risks of abuse and addiction even after he received information that particular patients were abusing their drugs, were selling their drugs, and were "doctor shopping." In addition, Hancock’s actions defrauded the TennCare system, since it had to pay for drugs that were not medically necessary. Hancock also wrote prescriptions with the agreement that the patients would bring all or part of the drugs back to Hancock, usually for his personal use. Hancock also was found guilty of willfully failing to file income tax returns from 2002 through 2005 when he had gross income of over $1 million during that period. The federal judge who imposed the sentence found that Hancock had "abdicated the responsibilities attendant with a medical license" and had "stopped operating a medical practice and became a drug dealer." The investigation was conducted by special agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
- In a “Pill Mill Pipeline” case known as “Oxy Rush,” 14 defendants were convicted in a drug conspiracy involving primarily Oxycodone (basically a synthetic form of heroin) and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment as high as 15 years. Five Tampa, Florida area residents were involved in a lengthy scheme to obtain Oxycodone and ship the pills to nine Knoxville area coconspirators via FedEx and UPS. The Knoxville co-conspirators would then sell the pills on the streets of Knoxville for profit. The conspiracy lasted approximately two years and involved the distribution of 150,000 pills. The sentencing judge described the increase in the abuse of prescription narcotics as “epidemic.”
- In one of our pharmacy robbery case - Justin Scott entered the Jeff-Co Drugstore in Dandridge, Tennessee wearing a camouflage mask and carrying a loaded .40 caliber handgun. He jumped over the pharmacy counter, demanded Oxycontin, and, with a gun held to the employee's right temple, he ordered the employee to get the Oxycontin out of the safe. Scott grabbed a bag containing approximately 700 or 800 pills and ran out of the store. He was convicted of the robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence and was sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment of nine years.
To report drug crimes or learn more about illegal drug diversion and the problems it is causing our country visit http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov.