WASHINGTON (WOWK) — Twelve medical professionals have been charged for their alleged involvement in opioid distribution crimes, according to the United States Department of Justice.

The DOJ says the medical professionals are among 14 defendants throughout eight federal districts throughout the US. The defendants are two Kentuckians, one West Virginian and two Ohioans.

The cases are part of the efforts and investigation of the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which has charged 111 defendants throughout West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Virginia and Tennessee in cases of unlawful distribution of prescription opioids throughout the past three years.

“Those who illegally prescribe opioids not only undermine critical efforts to address the epidemic; they also put patients at risk of overdose and physical harm,” said Inspector General Christi A. Grimm of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “This enforcement action demonstrates HHS-OIG’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable bad actors who abuse their status as health care providers and exploit the opioid epidemic for personal gain.”

According to the DOJ, key cases among these 14 defendants include Loey Kousa, 59, of Paintsville, Kentucky, who owned and operated East KY Clinic, PLLC in Paintsville. He is charged with prescribing opioids “outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.” The DOJ says patients would allegedly wait for hours to see Kousa for interactions that ranged from a few seconds to a few moments. He is accused of fraudulently billing the visits as lengthier and more complex and prescribing the opioids to have continued access to patients on Medicare and Medicaid to allegedly fradulently bill the programs.

A second key case involves a West Virginia man who was not a licensed medical professional. Frederick De Mesa, 48, of War, West Virginia, whom the DOJ says is charged by indictment with “unlawful distribution of controlled substances” and “obtaining a controlled substance using a registration number issued to another person.” According to the DOJ, De Mesa worked at Squire Medical Center and is accused of allegedly using the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration registration number of a relative, who is a medical doctor, to issue tramadol prescriptions on two separate occasions.

For more details on the separate cases, visit the DOJ website.

“Doctors and health care professionals are entrusted with prescribing medicine responsibly and in the best interests of their patients. Today’s takedown targets medical providers across the country whose greed drove them to abandon this responsibility in favor of criminal profits,” said Administrator Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “DEA will use every tool at our disposal to stop drug diversion and fraud. And we are working tirelessly each day to make our communities safer and healthier.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Center for Program Integrity also says it has taken six administrative actions against providers for their alleged involvement in the offenses.

Any patients who have been impacted by these cases can get more information on available treatment programs or patient assistance at the following:

For those in other states who are seeking help call 1-800-662-HELP.