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Purdue Pharma agrees to plead guilty and pay $8.3 billion regarding OxyContin

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Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin, the drug many say began the opioid crisis in the United States, agreed to plead guilty Wednesday to federal criminal charges in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and also agreed to pay $8.3 billion in fines.

The charges against the company stem from its marketing of the highly addictive drug and its role in the nationwide crisis that has killed more than 450,000 Americans since 1990. Purdue has agreed to plead guilty a three-count felony information charging it with one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement reaffirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multipronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”

The criminal resolution includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. For the $2 billion forfeiture, the company will pay $225 million on the effective date of the bankruptcy, and the department is willing to credit the value conferred by the company to state and local governments under the department’s anti-piling on and coordination policy. Purdue has also agreed to a civil settlement in the amount of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.

Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages to resolve its civil False Claims Act liability.

The deal does not release the company or its owners from further criminal charges, and the DOJ investigation continues. It also does not protect the company or its owners from other civil litigation. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Purdue and the Sackler family.

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors since 2018, said in a statement.

The timing of the deal suggests that the company wanted to settle under the Trump administration, believing it could get a better deal than with a Biden DOJ. Numerous state attorneys general have raised questions as to how effective the deal is as punishment for the Sackler family. Their $225 million settlement is pocket change for a family whose estimated wealth is at least $13 billion, much of it coming from sales of OxyContin diverted to family-controlled trusts and holding companies even as the company was under investigation.

“Purdue is doing everything they can to get this deal done in this administration,” Joe Rice, a negotiator for local governments that are suing Purdue, told The New York Times. “It’s advantageous to both sides.”

The company filed bankruptcy last year and will likely emerge as a new corporation once the dust settles. In the meantime, it’s unlikely that it will pay the entire amount of the settlement as creditors typically pay pennies on the dollar during bankruptcies. As of now, the DOJ is in line with other creditors.

“DOJ failed,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wrote on Twitter in a response to the news of the settlement. “Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Massachusetts has scheduled depositions next month against some Sackler family members. The family continues to claim it acted “ethically and lawfully” and that “all financial distributions were proper.”

Read about how opioid addiction has affected Vicksburg:
‘It was just kind of normal.’  A Vicksburg family struggles with opioid addiction
“‘This makes me feel better.’ A daughter’s story.”
‘That’s his nature.’ Opioids and violence destroy a military marriage

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VPD reports auto burglary and car crash

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The Vicksburg Police Department reports the following incidents for Tuesday, Oct. 20, and Wednesday, Oct. 21.

On Tuesday at 12:44 p.m. an auto burglary was reported at the police station. The victim said the theft occurred four days earlier, sometime Friday, Oct. 16, while the vehicle was parked in the 2100 block of Clay Street. A 9 mm Taurus handgun was taken. The vehicle had no signs of forced entry.

In a separate incident, shortly before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, a Vicksburg police officer observed a white Cadillac Escalade traveling at a high rate of speed on North Washington Street. After losing sight of the vehicle, the officer continued traveling in its last known direction until he located it. The Cadillac had crashed near the intersection of North Washington Street and Highway 61 North. The driver was transported to Merit Health River Region for treatment.

If you have any information on either of these incidents, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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Miss Leola Harris died Wednesday morning

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A younger Leoloa Harris (photos courtesy the family)

The beloved Miss Leola Harris died at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday after suffering a heart attack Oct. 9. She would have been 58 next Monday.

Family members confirmed Harris’s death, and Jefferson Funeral Home will be handling her funeral arrangements.

Born in Vicksburg Oct. 26, 1962, Harris grew up in Vicksburg and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She still managed to do great in school and was a proud 1981 Vicksburg High School graduate.

Leola Harris. (photo by Larry Walker)

Harris also attended Hinds Community College where she earned a welding certificate in 1982 just a year after graduating from VHS.

Leola Harris as a child (photo courtesy the family)

Most individuals who saw Miss Harris hanging around downtown Vicksburg assumed she was homeless, but she actually had an apartment in the city that she loved.

Harris was close to her family and cared deeply for her nieces and nephews.

“She played a big role in helping raise her nieces and nephews and she always kept a smile on her face,” said Kizzy Butler, one of Harris’ nieces. “She loved her parents and family,” Butler added.

Harris was youngest girl of 11 children. Her father, Leo Harris, passed away in 1998, but her mother, Gladys Butler, is still alive.

Downtown Vicksburg will forever remember Miss Leola who always seemed to brighten the day for everyone she met.

A date has not been set for Harris’ funeral, yet, but the Vicksburg Daily News will provide additional information as we receive it.

 

 

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