Redirections Treatment Operations Manager Charged with Unlawfully Dispensing Buprenorphine and Defrauding Medicaid
PITTSBURGH, PA – The manager of an opioid addiction treatment practice has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances and health care fraud, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady of the Western District of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney William J. Powell of the Northern District of West Virginia announced today. This indictment is the third in Western Pennsylvania since Attorney General Sessions announced the formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a Department of Justice initiative that uses data to target and prosecute individuals that commit opioid-related health care fraud.
The four-count indictment, returned on March 21, named Christopher Handa, 47, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
According to the indictment, Handa was an employee in charge of operations at Redirections Treatment Advocates, LLC, an addiction treatment facility with multiple locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. The indictment alleges that Handa and others conspired to create and submit unlawful prescriptions for buprenorphine, known as Subutex and Suboxone, and then unlawfully dispensed those controlled substances to other persons. Handa is also charged with health care fraud for allegedly causing fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicaid for payments to cover the costs of the unlawfully prescribed buprenorphine.
"Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "It's incredible but true that some of our trusted medical professionals have chosen to violate their oaths and exploit this crisis for profit. Last summer, I sent a dozen of our top federal prosecutors to focus solely on the problem of opioid-related health care fraud in places where the epidemic was at its worst—including Western Pennsylvania. These cases cut off the supply of drugs and stop fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable people. Our prosecutors began issuing indictments back in October, and today we bring even more charges against those who allegedly defrauded the taxpayer while diverting potentially addictive drugs. We will file many more charges in the months to come—because the Department of Justice will be relentless in hunting down drug dealers and turning the tide of this epidemic."
"Because high quality, medication-assisted treatment is so essential to our opioid response, we must act rapidly and decisively to charge the unlawful diversion of buprenorphine," stated U.S. Attorney Brady. "This indictment is the result of a well-coordinated investigation by the Western Pennsylvania Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which is working to attack the opioid problem at its root: the diversion and overprescription of opioid painkillers."
"We are unified with our sister districts to combat those who believe they can hide behind professional services and violate the law," added U.S. Attorney Powell. We will continue our joint effort to prosecute the opioid crisis at its very source."
"The DEA recognizes that the use of buprenorphine as part of a comprehensive drug treatment program is an effective tool in helping those that struggle with substance use disorder," said Jonathan A. Wilson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division. "We are also aware that when buprenorphine is illegally diverted, it can affect the lives of countless people as well as their families and friends. The DEA will aggressively pursue those that seek to illegally distribute controlled substances as is alleged in this indictment."
"The FBI will continue to investigate those accused of exploiting our health care system at the expense of those suffering from addiction and the taxpayers who help fund rehabilitation centers," said Special Agent in Charge Bob Johnson of the FBI Pittsburgh Division. "I applaud the Health Care Fraud Task Force and its partners as they work to make our community safer."
Handa faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of the two counts charging him with unlawfully dispensing Schedule III controlled substances, a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $1 million for the one count charging him with conspiracy to unlawfully dispense a Schedule III controlled substance, and a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for the one count charging him with health care fraud. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Wagner of the Northern District of West Virginia are prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.
The investigation leading to the indictment in this case was conducted by the Western Pennsylvania Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which combines personnel and resources from the following agencies to combat the growing prescription opioid epidemic: Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Unites States Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office – Criminal Division, Civil Division and Asset Forfeiture Unit, Department of Veterans Affairs-Office of Inspector General, Food and Drug Administration- Office of Criminal Investigations and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Licensing.
An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.