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Pittsburgh drug treatment employee indicted on drug charges

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A Pittsburgh man has been indicted by a federal grand jury after prosecutors say he used his position at a drug treatment facility to illegally dispense an opioid treatment drug.

According to prosecutors, Christopher Handa, 47, while an employee in charge of operations with Redirections Treatment Advocates, an addiction treatment agency with facilities in Washington County and Weirton, West Virginia, conspired to “create and submit unlawful prescriptions for buprenorphine, known as Subutex and Suboxone, and then unlawfully dispensed those controlled substances to other persons.”

Prosecutors also say that Handa filed fraudulent claims with Medicaid for payment to cover the cost of the illegally prescribed drugs.

Handa has been charged with two counts of unlawfully dispensing a Schedule III controlled substance and a single count of health care fraud, which each carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or a 10 year prison sentence or both. He has also been charged with a single count of conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance, which carries a maximum fine of $1 million or 10 years in prison or both.

Dr. Jennifer Hess, a counselor with Redirections, said that the organization has no comment on the indictment.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in the release, said that some medical professionals have chosen to exploit the opioid crisis — which he said kills an American every nine minutes — for profit and that his Department of Justice will continue to charge drug dealers wherever they are found.

“Last summer, I sent a dozen of our top federal prosecutors to focus solely on the problem of opioid-related health care fraud in places where the epidemic was at its worst — including Western Pennsylvania,” he said. “These cases cut off the supply of drugs and stop fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable people. Our prosecutors began issuing indictments back in October, and today we bring even more charges against those who allegedly defrauded the taxpayer while diverting potentially addictive drugs.”

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said that attacking the opioid crisis means tackling problems caused by overzealous prescribers.

“This indictment is the result of a well-coordinated investigation by the Western Pennsylvania Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which is working to attack the opioid problem at its root: the diversion and overprescription of opioid painkillers,” he said.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, [email protected] or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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