New opioid strike force to focus on Appalachian region

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A joint law enforcement effort to crack down on the opioid epidemic in Appalachia was announced on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2018.  The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force combines the resources of law enforcement partners and U.S. Attorney’s Offices in nine federal districts in five states, including West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.

The mission of the strike force is to identify and investigate health care fraud schemes and to prosecute medical professionals involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids.

“I welcome the additional resource of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, Mike Stuart. “My office has been unrelenting in its assault on drug dealers & traffickers.  This Strike Force will further strengthen our efforts to identify and prosecute the purveyors of pain that cause untold chaos and despair to our families and in our communities.  I want to assure our citizens that we will not stop until we have identified and prosecuted every medical professional involved in creating and maintaining this crisis through illegal prescriptions and distribution of opioids.”

In June, the success of the Strike Force model was noted by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  That was the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action which charged 601 defendants, including 165 licenses medical professionals.

The ARPO Strike Force will be made up of prosecutors and data analysts.  It will work closely with various federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS Criminal Investigation and State Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

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