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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Eastern District of Tennessee Selected to Participate in Department of Justice Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On August 2, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a new Department of Justice pilot program to utilize data to help combat the devastating opioid crisis that is ravaging families and communities across America. This new unit will focus specifically on opioid-related health care fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this prescription opioid epidemic.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee was one of 12, out of 94 districts across the country, chosen to participate in this program. The district will receive funding for an Assistant U.S Attorney, for a three-year term, to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting healthcare fraud related to prescription opioids, including pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes. The 12 districts selected represent areas with a significant prescription opioid problem, where the Department of Justice can effectively investigate and prosecute the medical providers that are contributing to this epidemic by unlawfully diverting or dispensing opioids outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.


“Sadly, statistics show that Tennessee is one of the most highly opioid-addicted states in the country. While our current Assistant U.S. Attorneys have already made tremendous efforts toward combatting opioid-related healthcare fraud in the district, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is pleased to receive these additional resources, including funding for an aggressive prosecutor, to enhance these endeavors,” said U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr.


"Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Lewen, Jr., has been selected to fill this position in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Working with the FBI, DEA and HHS, as well as our state and local law enforcement partners, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewen will lead the district in the investigation and prosecution of opioid-related healthcare fraud cases involving doctors, pharmacies and medical providers who are furthering this epidemic in east Tennessee,” said U.S. Attorney Harr.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewen has served as a federal prosecutor in east Tennessee for nearly 10 years. Prior to that time, he served on active duty for five years in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, serving in Korea, Hawaii, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewen has experience in prosecuting a wide range of federal crimes, including large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, violent crimes, public corruption, and complex white-collar and corporate fraud crimes. Two of the higher profile defendants Lewen has prosecuted in U.S. District Court include former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner and bank extortionist Michael Benanti.


The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Unit was created to focus specifically on opioid-related healthcare fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this opioid epidemic. Data analytics will reveal important information about the prescription opioid problem, such as: which physicians are writing opioid prescriptions at a rate that far exceeds their peers, taking into account speciality and other factors; how many of a doctor’s patients died within 60 days of an opioid prescription; the average age of the patients receiving these prescriptions; pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids; and regional hot spots for opioid issues.


In addition to the Eastern District of Tennessee, other districts selected to participate in the program include: Eastern District of Kentucky; Northern District of Alabama; Middle District of North Carolina; Southern District of West Virginia; Middle District of Florida; Eastern District of Michigan; District of Nevada; District of Maryland; Western District of Pennsylvania; Southern District of Ohio; and Eastern District of California.



Drug Trafficking
Sharry Dedman-Beard Public Information Officer 865-225-1671
Updated August 8, 2017