Senate Democrats urge DOJ to open criminal probe into Sackler family members

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A group of Senate Democrats are urging the Justice Department to investigate whether members of the Sackler family personally engaged in criminal acts in connection with Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic.

In a letter led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Democrats asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to consider possible criminal charges against members of the Sackler family in addition to the previously resolved civil and criminal investigations of the department on Purdue.

“Real justice in this case means holding individual offenders criminally accountable,” the Democrats wrote.

In 2020, the Justice Department under former President Trump announced an $8 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma to resolve a federal investigation into its opioid marketing practices, despite the company having already filed for bankruptcy and no was required to pay the government only $225 million.

The Sacklers owned Purdue, which made the powerful opioid OxyContin. The drug is widely believed to be one of the drivers of an opioid epidemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States.

As part of the settlement, Purdue also pleaded guilty to three felonies for its sale and marketing of OxyContin. As part of the settlement, the Sackler family decided to relinquish control of the business, but did not face any criminal charges. They also only paid $225 million, while secretly siphoning off more than $10 billion from the company to themselves, according to an investigation by New York Attorney General Letita James.

The senators noted that under the settlement, the DOJ reserves the right to bring criminal charges against individuals.

“To that end, we are writing to encourage the Department to review the information in its possession and to investigate whether any members of the Sackler family engaged in criminal acts in connection with Purdue’s admitted criminal acts, prior to the expiration of any relevant statute of limitations,” the senators wrote. .

The Sacklers have long maintained that they and their company are beyond reproach when it comes to the opioid crisis because OxyContin has been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Hill contacted representatives for the family, as well as the DOJ.

“The fact that the Department has taken steps to hold Purdue criminally responsible for its actions, but not the Sacklers, suggests different treatment for similar, if not identical, unlawful conduct,” the senators wrote.

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