Law Enforcement Successfully Targets Medical Professionals Illegally Dispensing Drugs
MAY 24 -- (FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, IL) - A. Courtney Cox, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today the results of Project Dr. Feelgood, a three year initiative spearheaded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS/OIG) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), designed to identify and eradicate the medically unnecessary dispensing of prescription medications to Medicaid recipients and Medicare beneficiaries in the Southern District of Illinois. In addition to identifying physicians who unlawfully prescribe controlled substances, Project Dr. Feelgood also sought to identify medical providers who divert controlled substances for their own personal use. To date, Project Dr. Feelgood has resulted in eight federal convictions and thirteen state convictions. Also as a result of the project, twelve medical professionals have surrendered their DEA Registrations and twenty-one medical providers have had their licenses suspended or put on probation by the State of Illinois.
Project Dr. Feelgood cases were investigated and prosecuted as part of the Southern Illinois Healthcare Fraud Task Force, including agents, investigators and prosecutors from HHS/OIG, DEA, FBI, United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois Criminal and Civil Divisions, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Illinois Police Departments, Sheriffs’ Offices, and Drug Task Forces. Project Dr. Feelgood targets have been successfully prosecuted federally in the Southern District of Illinois and through State’s Attorneys’ Offices in Jackson County [State’s Attorney Mike Wepsiec], Massac County [State’s Attorney Patrick Windhorst], Saline County [State’s Attorney Michael Henshaw] Union County [ State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds], and Williamson County [State’s Attorney Charles Garnati].
United States Attorney Courtney Cox stated: “Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Illinois and the dedicated agents and prosecutors in the federal, state, and local law enforcement community with whom they work will continue their efforts to vigorously prosecute those who engage in fraudulent acts related to health care programs. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to take all appropriate criminal or civil legal action to deter those whose conduct places the citizens of the Southern District of Illinois at risk. This project is an example of the many good things that can be accomplished through the cooperative efforts of law enforcement.” “Prescription drug fraud diverts valuable resources from the Medicare and Medicaid programs and, in some cases, results in personal tragedy for program beneficiaries. HHS-OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in pursuit of those who seek to defraud the Medicare and Medicaid prescription drug benefit,” said HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields.
Harry S. Sommers, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA St. Louis Division said, “These arrests and DEA registration actions should send a clear message to the medical practitioners who are acting outside the scope of legitimate medical practice that the DEA, along with our state, local, and federal counterparts, are committed to disrupting their illegal activities in an effort to protect the public health and safety.”
According to White County Coroner Carl McVey, “The results of this project are ultimately saving lives in my county.” Complaints from Coroner McVey led to the federal conviction of a physician who practices in his county.