New Orleans, Louisiana - A New Orleans, Louisiana-area woman pleaded guilty Wednesday for her participation in a scheme to obtain oxycodone through fraud by creating fictitious prescriptions and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone on the black market.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Special Agent in Charge Eric J. Rommal of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Stephen G. Azzam of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s New Orleans Field Division made the announcement.
Danielle Nicole Lesslie, 30, of Metairie, Louisiana was charged in a one-count Information with conspiracy to acquire and obtain possession of oxycodone through fraud and to possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone. She pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk of the Eastern District of Louisiana. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Africk on June 28.
“Danielle Lesslie used a physician’s stolen prescription template to create fraudulent prescriptions for opioids and then used those prescriptions to distribute approximately 312,050 milligrams of oxycodone pills on the black market,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “This case is indicative of the Department’s ongoing, multifaceted approach to combating the opioid epidemic.”
“The costs imposed on our society by the opioid epidemic are great,” said U.S. Attorney Evans. “That is why we will continue to prosecute individuals like Ms. Lesslie who participate in the illegal distribution of prescription drugs to members of the public.”
“This case is yet another example of how the opioid abuse and trafficking epidemic is affecting New Orleans and many other U.S. cities," said Special Agent in Charge Rommal. "Using her knowledge and experience in the medical field, Danielle Lesslie was able to generate numerous fraudulent prescriptions, resulting in a substantial number of pills on the street. In many instances these pills were sold for profit by Lesslie in an effort which ultimately contributed to the overall opioid epidemic. Through Lesslie’s fraudulent activities and greed, countless people were harmed, as well as several New Orleans area communities placed at risk. The FBI, along with our federal, state, and local partners remain committed to investigating allegations of prescription fraud and abuse in Louisiana.”
“HHS-OIG will never hesitate to investigate those who defraud federal health care programs in order to obtain and then sell opioid prescriptions on the black market,” said HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Porter. “Working with our law enforcement partners, our investigators will continue to crack down on prescription drug fraud in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not illegally being utilized to fund the opioid epidemic, as well as to protect the public from the illegal distribution of these prescription drugs.
“Danielle Lesslie and her co-conspirators in this scheme heartlessly contributed to the opioid epidemic plaguing our society today,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Azzam. “This malicious conduct puts lives at risk and won’t be tolerated. We will continue to protect the integrity of the medical profession, including physicians who have their prescription templates stolen from them. DEA, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to perpetuate and profit from the opioid crisis in this country, as well as undermine our nation’s taxpayer funded federal health care programs.”
On Oct. 5, 2017, Lesslie was arrested on a federal criminal complaint, which alleged that Lesslie used a physician’s stolen prescription template to create fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone that were filled by New Orleans area pharmacies and then resold on the black market.
In pleading guilty, Lesslie admitted that, between February 2017 and September 2017, she created fraudulent prescriptions using personal identifying information provided to her by her co-conspirators, which were then used to obtain oxycodone pills that were subsequently resold on the black market. She admitted to providing these fraudulent prescriptions to other individuals who she knew would fill the prescriptions, and then would facilitate the resale of the pills on the black market. In some instances, Lesslie knew that certain individuals used their Medicaid benefits when filling the fraudulent prescriptions. In total, she admitted distributing approximately 312,050 milligrams of oxycodone pills that were obtained using the fraudulent prescriptions that she created.
This case was investigated by the FBI; HHS-OIG, Office of Investigations; the DEA and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Trial Attorney Jared Hasten of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Myles Ranier of the Eastern District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 3,000 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $11 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.