Boise Nurse Practitioner and Patient/Medical Assistant Charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Opioids
BOISE – U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced criminal charges against two defendants today as part of the Department of Justice’s 2023 National Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action. This two-week nationwide law enforcement action resulted in criminal charges against 78 defendants for their alleged participation in health care fraud and opioid abuse schemes that included over $2.5 billion in alleged fraud.
In the Idaho case, a federal grand jury in Boise returned an indictment charging nurse practitioner Angela Kathryn Hughes, 49, of Boise, and Sydney L. Neal, 37, of Boise with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Hughes was also charged with distribution of controlled substances. The indictment alleges that from January 2022 through March 2023, Hughes and Neal conspired to distribute oxycodone, oxycodone acetaminophen, and hydrocodone acetaminophen outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. In addition, the indictment alleges that Hughes distributed hydrocodone acetaminophen to Neal on two occasions and oxycodone to another person on a third occasion.
The trial is scheduled for August 28, 2023, before Senior U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. A federal district court judge would determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
“These enforcement actions, including against one of the largest health care fraud schemes ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, represent our intensified efforts to combat fraud and prosecute the individuals who profit from it,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will find and bring to justice criminals who seek to defraud Americans and steal from taxpayer-funded programs.”
“The DEA, in partnership with Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHSOIG) and the Boise Police Department (BPD), remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure prescription drugs are not illegally diverted from the supply chain in an effort to continue the fight to reduce the overwhelming drug poisonings occurring across the United States,” said David F. Reames, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle Field Division. “These indictments and subsequent arrests are part of that effort to curb this drug poisoning epidemic and bring those to justice who knowingly and intentionally misuse their DEA registrations.”
“This nationwide enforcement action demonstrates that the Criminal Division is committed to fighting health care fraud and opioid abuse by prosecuting those who allegedly exploit patients and health care benefit programs for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s announcement includes some of the largest and most complex cases that the Department has prosecuted, and demonstrates the Department’s commitment to seeking justice for those at all levels of the healthcare industry who put profits above patient care, from professionals in doctors’ offices to executives in corporate boardrooms.”
“Unlawful prescription schemes not only steal taxpayer dollars, but they also can cause addiction and physical harm to patients and the community,” said U.S. Attorney Hurwit. “Health care providers should never start down the path of fraud and unlawful prescription drug distribution. We won’t tolerate it, and I’m grateful for the Boise Police Department’s collaboration with our federal law enforcement partners to investigate the case we announced today.”
“Medical professionals who take advantage of their credentials to illegitimately prescribe controlled substances violate the principles of their profession and put the health and safety of others at risk,” said Steven J. Ryan, Special Agent in Charge at the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG remains steadfast in our commitment to protecting the health and safety of American communities and holding accountable those who undermine efforts to curb the opioid crisis.”
U.S. Attorney Hurwit credited the cooperative efforts of the Boise Police Department, Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and Drug Enforcement Administration which led to the charges.
Idaho patients impacted by this service disruption experiencing a behavioral health crises can contact the 988 telephone hotline. Additionally, Idaho patients can contact 211 for questions regarding access to treatment services, primary care, and where to obtain naloxone. An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.