LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It's being called the largest health care fraud takedown in the history of the Department of Justice - more than 412 people charged, responsible for over $1.3 billion in false billing, according to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"It really is only a drop in the bucket," U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said. "Conservative estimates of health care fraud begin in the neighborhood of $80 billion a year."
Kuhn announced nine people and two businesses face charges in the U.S. District Court's Western District of Kentucky, accused of illegally distributing controlled substances, identity theft, money laundering and billing for treatments that were either unnecessary or never took place. Kuhn said this was part of a joint effort with the FBI, DEA, Department of Health and Human Services, state attorney general offices and local law enforcement working together to investigate these claims of health care fraud that officials say drove up healthcare costs for taxpayers and hurt patients.
"There's also a public safety issue when thousands of our citizens are dying from prescription drug overdose deaths each year," Amy Hess, the special agent in charge of the Louisville Division of the FBI, said.
"We're now in an era of white coat crime, people who've sworn an oath to do no harm, but instead they seem to ignore all the harm that they do," Kentucky Dep. Attorney General J. Michael Brown said.
In Thursday morning's press conference, Kuhn said 80 percent of heroin and opioid addicts started by abusing prescription painkillers, and that the takedown is only the beginning in the mission to stop medical professionals from abusing the healthcare system.
"We're unable to quantify the number of lives saved, that these people saved from addiction and overdone deaths when they disrupt these corrupt operations," he said.
Kuhn also said there were other cases where charges were pending.
Officials say one of the cases is against Physicians Primary Care, PLLC, which is located in Jeffersonville. Officials are charging Jeffrey Campbell, Mark Dyer and Dawn Antle, all from Jefferson County, with illegally distributing controlled substances and with healthcare fraud.
In the second case, Claudia Lopez of Jefferson County is being charged with healthcare fraud and mail theft. Officials claim Lopez fraudulently billed United Health Care for medical services that were never provided while working at Top Care Chiropractic and Wellness Center Corporation.
In a separate case, Janice Patterson, Tanesha Washington and Katerrell Kennedy of Jefferson County are facing charges of health care fraud. The case documents claim Patterson was falsely and fraudulently willing Anthem, Inc., for autism services that were never performed while operating the JM Autism Foundation Trust. The case also claims Patterson and Kennedy also falsely billed Anthem while operating Total Spectrum Autism Services, LLC.
A fourth case charges Karen Poeling, Mitchel Stukey and Med 1st of Evansville with falsely billing for unnecessary medical procedures that were never performed, performing unnecessary tests, providing back braces that were not medically necessary and committing money laundering. Case documents also allege Stukey conspired with others to illegally distribute and dispense controlled substances.