Mainers have been charged as part of a massive nationwide sting against medical professionals for fraud related to “opioid diversion and abuse,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

It was unclear Thursday how many Mainers have been charged, or who they are, as the Justice Department statement did not include any names of the 601 people nationwide accused of “more than $2 billion in false billings.”

Of the 601 charged, “162 defendants, including 76 doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics.”

The Press Herald has requested from the Justice Department the names and charges of any Mainers who have been charged.

According to the statement, “in the Districts of Maine and Vermont, two defendants were charged for their roles in two schemes to defraud various government programs including Medicare, Medicaid, and ones run by the HHS’ Administration for Children and Families.”

Also, Maine was one of 22 states named where “97 defendants have been charged with defrauding the Medicaid program out of over $27 million.”

The sting was part of an investigation into fraudulent billing for federal programs including Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE (health insurance for the military and its veterans) and also involving fraudulent billing of private insurance companies.

“Health care fraud is a betrayal of vulnerable patients, and often it is theft from the taxpayer,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “In many cases, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists take advantage of people suffering from drug addiction in order to line their pockets. These are despicable crimes.”

Maine is in the midst of an opioid crisis, averaging more than one drug overdose death per day. Maine had 418 drug overdose deaths – an all-time record – in 2017, and is on pace to record a similar number of deaths in 2018.

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