Criminal Division Announces First Arrest and Charges by the New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force
NEPO Strike Force was launched this summer to combat unlawful prescribing amidst continuing opioid epidemic
A Maine doctor was arrested today in Kennebunk on criminal charges related to her alleged illegal distribution of opioids and other controlled substances.
According to court documents, Merideth C. Norris, D.O., 52, of Kennebunk, allegedly prescribed opioids, and other controlled substances, outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. Due to her dangerous prescribing, as a condition of her release, Norris cannot prescribe any Schedule II-V controlled substances.
Norris is charged in an indictment with 10 counts of illegal distribution of opioids and other controlled substances. The defendant made her initial court appearance on Oct. 26. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the top counts. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee for the District of Maine; Deputy Inspector General Christian J. Schrank of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); Administrator Anne Milgram of the DEA; and Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta of the FBI Boston Field Office made the announcement.
The HHS-OIG, DEA, and FBI are investigating the case.
Principal Assistant Deputy Chief Kilby Macfadden and Trial Attorneys Patrick Queenan and Thomas Campbell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The New England Prescription Opioid (NEPO) Strike Force operates as a partnership between prosecutors and data analysts of the Criminal Division, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, and special agents and investigators with HHS-OIG, DEA, FBI, and other federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the State Medicaid Fraud Control Units. The mission of the NEPO Strike Force is to identify and investigate health care fraud schemes in the New England region, and to effectively and efficiently prosecute individuals involved in the illegal distribution of prescription opioids and other prescribed controlled substances.
Information about available treatment programs is available as follows:
Maine: The Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety (OPTIONS) initiative is a coordinated effort of the Maine Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) and other state agencies to improve the health of Mainers using substances through harm reduction strategies, helping them on the road to recovery, and dramatically reducing the number of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses. Go to https://knowyouroptions.me. If you or a loved one are struggling with opiate addiction, please contact 211 to receive help and find information about local treatment programs.
New Hampshire: For a referral to addiction treatment services, please call 211. If you or a loved one is in a substance use crisis, please call or text the New Hampshire Rapid Response Access Point at 1-833-710-6477. New Hampshire residents can call and speak to trained and caring clinical staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Vermont: No matter where in Vermont you are, there are resources to help. Vermont 211 (https://vermont211.org/) is available. To speak to someone about substance use resources including treatment options, call VT Helplink 802-565-LINK (toll free at 833-565-LINK) or visit online at VTHelplink.org, and Vermont Alcohol and Abuse Programs 802-651-1550. All information and referral services are free and confidential.
For individuals seeking help in other states, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.