Federal Prescription Drug Fraud and Pill Mills Charges – 21 U.S.C. 841
The opioid and prescription drug fraud crisis across the United States has led federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on the sale and distribution of prescription drugs. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aggressively investigate “pill mill” cases against doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals provide treatment to patients and prescribe prescription drugs.
The term “pill mill” is commonly used by federal investigators to describe a situation when a medical professional distributes prescription drugs outside their normal practice or without a legitimate medical need.
21 U.S.C. 841 makes it a felony crime to knowingly and intentionally distribute a controlled substance other than in the usual course of practice and for a legitimate medical purpose. Closely related 21 U.S.C. 846 makes it a crime to attempt or conspire with others in order to violate this federal statute.
While many prescription drug fraud cases are filed against individuals in a state-level court, there are situations where people, or a group of individuals, will be criminal charged in federal court for their alleged involvement in a pill mill operation.
There are countless numbers of people who suffer from chronic pain and require regular treatment. However, many are not eligible for certain procedures or surgery and will seek ways to reduce their pain. Thus, some physicians will unlawfully prescribe prescription drugs to help them control the pain.
Prescribing narcotics has come under close scrutiny to fight against the opioid epidemic. Federal law enforcement agencies are actively investigating numerous physicians who regularly prescribe drugs listed under the Controlled Substances Act, such as OxyContin, Perocet, Percodan, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Morphine, Fentanyl, and others.
To give readers a better understanding of prescription drug fraud and pill mill charges, our federal criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.
Federal Criminal Investigations of a “Pill Mill”
The term “Pill Mill” is used to describe when a medical professional is facing criminal allegations of distributing pain medication outside the normal course of their medical practice or without a legitimate medical purpose. In other words, these type of federal drug crime charges are pursued when there is a reason to believe medical professionals are attempting to gain a financial profit.
Federal prosecutors have created special task forces to identify, investigate, and prosecute the many primary prescribers of pain medications. They often look for red flags that will that tend to show a medical professional is operating as a pill mill.
For example, let's say a certain “pain clinic” has numerous people who don't live nearby are routinely coming to their office to obtain a controlled substance prescription. This type of situation would certainly raise a red flag for investigators and give them reason to believe they are a pill mill operation.
Also, these type of medical clinics typically charge higher fees for their services and will require cash only payments. It should be noted, however, it's not illegal to accept cash only for medical treatments.
Physicians who regularly prescribe Schedule II and Schedule III prescriptions will frequently receive close scrutiny from the Drug Enforcement Administration, even is a situation where they are running a legitimate legal practice. Physicians are legally authorized to prescribe medication to a patient for their patient's best interest and they are not always operating a “pill mill” if they prescribe a lot of pain medication.
If a federal law enforcement agency believes someone is operating as a “pill mill,” the will start a criminal investigation and target the doctor's prescription records. They will closely examine how the doctor is prescribing pain medication and provide a report to the prosecutor often claiming the doctor is prescribing too many narcotics to patients. In some case, they will attempt to track down patients to get more information.
In some situations, federal agents and local police will conduct undercover sting operations and will take pictures of patients coming to the office, and even make note of their license plate number. Sometimes, agents will pretend to be a patient who has chronic pain. They will make false statements to the doctor in an attempt to get a prescription for pain medication.
Often, these type of criminal investigations will take several months to complete and often result in a raid of the medical clinic, where the doctors and support staff are arrested at the scene. The clinic's bank account is usually frozen and seized.
Overdose Deaths and Forfeiture of Property and Money
There are cases where the government will attempt to hold a doctor responsible for patients who abuse prescription medication and die by overdose. The penalties for such cases are severe.
If the doctor is convicted of prescribing pain medication without a legitimate medical purpose, and the patient dies from an overdose, they could be facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in a federal prison.
Also, in most “pill mill” cases, the federal prosecutor will attempt to seize bank accounts, property, and any assets connected to the illegal activity, even if they are found not guilty. Our federal criminal attorneys can challenge any claims of seizure.
We know how to defend forfeiture and seizure in a federal court and may be able to get defendant's property and money back to them.
Fighting Federal Prescription Drug Fraud Charges
If you have been charged with federal prescription drug fraud under 21 U.S.C. 841 or 21 U.S.C. 846, our federal criminal defense attorneys will closely examine all the details and legal options.
Our defense lawyers represent physicians and other healthcare professional throughout the United States and have the experience to develop an effective strategy to obtain the best possible outcome on the case. If necessary, we can use medical experts in an attempt to prove prescribing the pain medication was lawful and for a legitimate purpose.
We will review any witnesses for the federal prosecutor to make sure they are credible and not a bitter ex-employee of the clinic who decided to cooperate with the government in an attempt to conceal their own illegal activity.
We might be able to make a reasonable argument there was a lack of criminal intent, or that there is insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. We are skilled negotiators and may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce or even dismiss the charges.
If you are under a criminal investigation, or already indicted for an alleged violation of 21 U.S.C. 841 or 18 U.S.C. 1347, prescription drug fraud, call our experienced federal criminal attorneys for guidance.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a nationally recognized criminal defense law firm representing clients throughout the United States for any type of federal offence. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We also have an office at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact our office for an immediate case evaluation at 877-781-1570.