Two Orange County doctors are among 14 people charged in federal court in Southern California as part of a nationwide health-care fraud crackdown targeting more than 400 defendants across the country.
These included 120 allegedly involved in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous drugs, authorities announced Thursday.
At least four doctors were among those charged in federal court in Los Angeles, including Dr. Jeffrey Olsen of Laguna Beach and Dr. Thomas Powers of Santa Ana.
Federal prosecutors described the takedown as the largest health-care fraud operation ever undertaken, with the defendants collectively accused of false billings totaling about $1.3 billion.
In the local cases, 14 people — including doctors — were charged for allegedly scheming to defraud health insurance programs including Medicare. Prosecutors said the defendants took part in fraud and kickback schemes involving not just narcotics, but also services such as physical therapy, acupuncture, sleep studies and hospice care.
“Health care fraud schemes such as these threaten the vital trust between a patient and his or her health care provider, undermine the integrity of our health care system and cost all Americans billions of dollars,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown. “Today’s announcement serves as a clear warning that we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and hold accountable health care professionals who commit these crimes.”
Prosecutors alleged that Olsen, 57, sold hundreds of drug prescriptions to addicts in other states, without ever seeing the “patients” for examinations. Prosecutors contend Olsen charged fees as high as $3,000 to prescribe customers whatever drug they wanted. He allegedly sold more than 1.2 million pills of narcotics, and thousands of pills of drugs such as Xanax and Soma.
Powers allegedly authorized prescriptions for patients he never examined, receiving payments from another defendant, Newport Beach resident Anthony Paduano, who allegedly received about $1.2 million for referring the prescriptions to a local pharmacy that billed TRICARE more than $4.8 million, prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing the crackdown in Washington, D.C., said the action was an effort to reduce the abuse of prescription medications.
“The U.S. is by far the highest-prescribing opioid nation in the world,” he said. “No other nation is close to it.”
— City News Service
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