In previous articles, we have discussed some of the general law enforcement related activities that OIG Special Agents conduct; search warrants, arrests, HHS Secretarial Protection assignments and drug diversion investigations.  Even with all of that being said, people still wonder about instances when an OIG Agent might have had to otherwise exercise law enforcement authority.  Of course, we always query our retired OIG Special Agents and, in this case, asked them about any particular anecdotes about being federal law enforcement officers in a healthcare world.  We have been fortunate that our retired OIG Agents worked in some of the larger metropolitan cities around the country; but suffice to say that strange happenings are going on all over.  With increased opioid usage, comes the greater threat of resistance to law enforcement.  However, even some of the more traditional healthcare fraud matters can lead to being put in harm’s way.

One particular instance involved a huge cache of firearms and other weapons discovered during a search warrant execution in suburban New Jersey.  The multi-million dollar home sat on a lake, and was surrounded by acreage and other multi-million dollar homes.  The search warrant was executed to locate evidence of a kickback and healthcare fraud scheme perpetuated by the owners of the home, some of whom had prior convictions for crimes that made them ineligible to own or otherwise possess firearms.  The number of weapons discovered was enormous; altered assault rifles, handguns, and a slew of knives and other cutlery, typically only found on an episode of “Top Chef.”  It could have been a very bad scenario had the OIG Special Agents not been properly trained and equipped to handle such a situation.

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Fig. 1 – Mass of weapons being identified and documented
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Fig. 2 – Weapon cache

One of our retired OIG Agents recalled about how when he was a student at the Federal law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), he sat next to one of the new legal instructors, who was auditing the academy class to see what the training entailed.  He would routinely ask why HHS-OIG agents needed to carry firearms.  It was the middle 1990’s and fraud was just starting to become something that was gaining notice, so the general public, and certainly others with even more granular knowledge, may not have fully understood the rationale.  As the pictures demonstrate, OIG Special Agents, like any other law enforcement officer, can run into immeasurable danger.  They may not be conducting routine traffic stops, and engaging with the public to the extent that a uniformed or municipal law enforcement officer would, but an OIG Agent can certainly see the less friendly side of humanity. 

Not withstanding any of this, OIG Special Agents are highly skilled investigators for a breadth of matters, since many fraud schemes that involve healthcare can also involve financial crimes, conventional crimes and combinations of all of them.  Analytic skills, interviewing prowess, the ability to write, communicate and synthesize information, are all traits that are inherent in the OIG Special Agent family.  We here at Advize are extremely proud that we have been able to recruit known quantities from the OIG who have decades of investigative and supervisory experience with knowledge of the various investigative and regulatory aspects of the OIG; a skillset that only comes from being there.