WHEELING, W.Va. — A new initiative to combat health care fraud in West Virginia was launched on Tuesday, according to United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld.

On Tuesday morning, state and federal agencies gathered at the U.S. Attorney’s office for the first meeting of the Mountaineer Health Care Fraud Strike Force, a unit that will take a data-driven approach to uncover waste and abuse.

Representatives from seven different agencies discussed fraudulent billing patterns and new targets were identified as a result. In addition to its analytical work, the Strike Force will engage with providers and insurers so that there is a better understanding of how to recognize and report health care fraud, according to release.

“The time I spent in the private sector opened my eyes to the scope of the health care fraud that is occurring in West Virginia,” said U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld. “It made me realize that more can and should be done by law enforcement, which is why this new group has been formed.”

Watch: Health Care Statement from Brook Riordan

During the meeting, Ihlenfeld stressed the importance of whistleblowers and the impact that they can have upon uncovering fraud.

“Oftentimes the first person to witness fraud is an employee of a hospital or a doctor’s office,” Ihlenfeld said. “Those who blow the whistle and expose conduct that the government was not able to detect on its own are awarded a portion of the amount recovered, and those awards can be substantial.”

A new hotline, email address and mailing address have been established to allow for the reporting of potential fraud. Anyone with information may call (304) 234-7711, send an email to wvfraud@fbi.gov, or mail correspondence to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Attn: Mountaineer HCF Strike Force, P.O. Box 591, Wheeling, WV 26003.

Watch: OIG Statement from Mary Ann Withrow

Members of the Mountaineer Health Care Fraud Strike Force include agents, officers and prosecutors from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Department of Defense, the West Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the West Virginia Offices of Insurance Commission, and the United States Attorney’s Office.

“The newly formed team will combine the talents, dedication, and resources of federal law enforcement and the State of West Virginia to fight health care fraud, waste, and abuse,” said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge for the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “We look forward to working with our law enforcement partners in this collaborative initiative to prevent and detect health care fraud, hold wrongdoers accountable, and ensure appropriate use of taxpayer funds.”