KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On August 2, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the
formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a new Department of Justice pilot
program to utilize data to help combat the devastating opioid crisis that is ravaging families and
communities across America. This new unit will focus specifically on opioid-related health care
fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this prescription
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee was one of 12, out of 94
districts across the country, chosen to participate in this program. The district will receive funding
for an Assistant U.S Attorney, for a three-year term, to focus solely on investigating and
prosecuting healthcare fraud related to prescription opioids, including pill mill schemes and
pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes. The
12 districts selected represent areas with a significant prescription opioid problem, where the
Department of Justice can effectively investigate and prosecute the medical providers that are
contributing to this epidemic by unlawfully diverting or dispensing opioids outside the scope of
professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.”
“Sadly, statistics show that Tennessee is one of the most highly opioid-addicted states in
the country. While our current Assistant U.S. Attorneys have already made tremendous efforts
toward combatting opioid-related healthcare fraud in the district, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is
pleased to receive these additional resources, including funding for an aggressive prosecutor, to
enhance these endeavors,” said U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr.
“Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Lewen, Jr., has been selected to fill this position in the
U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Working with the FBI, DEA and HHS,
as well as our state and local law enforcement partners, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewen will lead the
district in the investigation and prosecution of opioid-related healthcare fraud cases involving doctors,
pharmacies and medical providers who are furthering this epidemic in east Tennessee,” said U.S. Attorney Harr.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewen has served as a federal prosecutor in east Tennessee for
nearly 10 years. Prior to that time, he served on active duty for five years in the U.S. Army JAG
Corps, serving in Korea, Hawaii, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewen
has experience in prosecuting a wide range of federal crimes, including large-scale drug trafficking
and money laundering organizations, violent crimes, public corruption, and complex white-collar
and corporate fraud crimes. Two of the higher profile defendants Lewen has prosecuted in U.S.
District Court include former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner and bank
extortionist Michael Benanti.
The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Unit was created to focus specifically on opioid-related
healthcare fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this opioid
epidemic. Data analytics will reveal important information about the prescription opioid problem,
such as: which physicians are writing opioid prescriptions at a rate that far exceeds their peers,
taking into account speciality and other factors; how many of a doctor’s patients died within 60
days of an opioid prescription; the average age of the patients receiving these prescriptions;
pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids; and regional hot spots for opioid issues.
In addition to the Eastern District of Tennessee, other districts selected to participate in the
program include: Eastern District of Kentucky; Northern District of Alabama; Middle District of
North Carolina; Southern District of West Virginia; Middle District of Florida; Eastern District of
Michigan; District of Nevada; District of Maryland; Western District of Pennsylvania; Southern
District of Ohio; and Eastern District of California.