Federal DEA Drug Diversion Investigations
The DEA Office of Diversion Control was set up to combat serious cases of drug diversion against physicians, pharmacists, mid-level providers and nurses. The DEA investigates and assists the Department of Justice in indicting these professionals for criminal drug diversion in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). When the DEA concludes their investigation, the DOJ will determine if Federal prosecution is appropriate or whether they should defer to state prosecutors or the state licensing board.
When the DEA investigates diversion, they often send undercover officers or patients to the practice or pharmacy to attempt to obtain narcotics for “other than legitimate medical need.” Sometimes they approach patients and attempt to coerce cooperation and have them visit the practice while being recorded. After they establish their case, the DEA will raid a practice or pharmacy in cooperation with local authorities and the FBI. This will result in negative media coverage of the practice. During the raid, they always attempt to obtain a “statement” from providers in the practice or pharmacy. Do not make a statement to DEA agents without the advice and assistance of a knowledgeable diversion defense attorney.
Generally, by the time the practice is raided, the DEA and the DOJ have obtained enough evidence to charge the physicians, nurses, pharmacists and mid-level providers at the practice, and an indictment may already be issued but remains under seal. When faced with drug diversion allegations, it is vitally important that you obtain a qualified attorney at the first hint that you are under investigation because, by the time you realize that you are under investigation, you may have already been charged. (See here for more information about unlawful prescribing and dispensing charges).
Statements Made to Investigators Regarding Drug Diversion
Even if you do not face criminal charges, your case may be referred to a prosecutor during or after state licensing proceedings. Criminal charges stemming from drug diversion/stealing drugs are very common and health care professionals need to be cautious when responding to a state letter of investigation for drug diversion-related allegations. Any statements you make to a state licensing investigator can subsequently be used against you for criminal charges.