In Cleveland, AG Jeff Sessions Outlines Steps Against Opioids
Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to Cleveland on Wednesday to announce a series of actions against people accused of illegally distributing opioids.
The steps by the Justice Department target two Ohio doctors, two Chinese citizens and a number of others.
“Today’s announcements are a warning to every trafficker, every crooked doctor or pharmacist, every drug company, every chairman and foreign national and company that puts greed before the lives and health of the American people,” Sessions said.
In the past several days, the Justice Department has obtained restraining orders to stop doctors Michael Tricaso of Akron and Gregory Gerber of Sandusky from writing prescriptions.
In a civil complaint, the government accuses Tricaso of illegally selling and writing prescriptions for opioids to a confidential source working for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A separate civil complaint accuses Gerber of “issuing prescriptions that had no legitimate medical purpose.” He’s also accused of accepting speaking fees from Insys Therapeutics to promote a form of fentanyl, payments the government characterized as “kickbacks.”
Messages were left with Gerber’s office and with an attorney listed for Tricaso.
Sessions said the government would also seek damages against the doctors.
“These injunctions—really TROs, temporary restraining orders—will stop immediately doctors from prescribing drugs, without waiting for, perhaps, a long-time criminal prosecution,” Sessions said.
Sessions also announced the indictments of Fujing and Guanghua Zheng, two Chinese citizens accused of distributing fentanyl analogues and other drugs around the world. Federal prosecutors allege that fentanyl distributed by the Zhengs caused the overdose deaths of Thomas Rauh and Carrie Dobbins in Akron.
The attorney general also said efforts against drug trafficking on the dark web have resulted in criminal charges and guilty pleas.
No Comment on Legal Woes in Trump Inner Circle
Sessions did not directly address the guilty plea this week by President Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen, nor the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
But at the end of his remarks in Cleveland, Sessions appeared to reference them.
“There’s been a lot of news coverage around the activities at the Department of Justice of late,” he said. “You’re all aware of the public filings in various cases, and I’m not going to comment specifically.”
Sessions said the Justice Department was tackling the president’s objectives, including thwarting gangs and the opioid crisis.
“This Department of Justice is focused on the priorities this president and the American people have given us,” Sessions said.
Update: Andrew Wides, an attorney for Tricaso, responded to the court action with the following statement:
Dr. Michael Tricaso has dedicated nearly 19 years to diligently and faithfully serving his patients and executing his oath as an osteopathic doctor in Northeastern Ohio. As such, he and his family were shocked and saddened by the allegations brought against him in the current litigation. At this juncture, we are exploring all legal options available to Dr. Tricaso. We will be zealously pursuing the truth and plan to aggressively defend any and all claims that have been brought against him by the Government. Despite the initial comments by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of the U.S. Attorney General, Dr. Tricaso is not and never has been a crooked doctor. Nor is he a drug dealer in a white lab coat. Furthermore, to suggest that Dr. Tricaso is a contributor to the devastating and tragic opioid crisis that has affected our community is simply incorrect. These attacks on Dr. Tricaso’s character are equally serious and spurious and will be challenged in Court through these proceedings.