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Downtown LA Doctors, 8 Others Busted For Alleged Oxycontin Trafficking

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A pair of Southland doctors is among ten people facing federal drug trafficking charges on Friday for their alleged roles in a downtown Los Angeles clinic that prosecutors say illegally distributed millions of painkillers.

KNX 1070's Vytas Safronikas reports over 1 million maximum-strength OxyContin pills were diverted to the street, where they were sold for about $23 and $27 per pill, according to a federal indictment filed Thursday.


The 10 defendants are named in a federal indictment that describes a drug ring allegedly run out of the Lake Medical Group, a medical clinic where doctors wrote prescriptions for Medicare, Medi-Cal and uninsured patients who had no medical need for the powerful painkiller, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"The interesting part about this case is not just the sheer quantity of drugs that were put on the streets of Los Angeles, but the fact that the organizers of the ring had set up a scheme in which Medicare would be paying for most of the drugs," Tom Rozek with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The OxyContin was obtained from pharmacies, often by fraudulently billing public insurance programs. Leaders of the organization allegedly resold the pills on the street, reaping millions of dollars in profits, prosecutors contend.

The indictment also alleges that some of the OxyContin was obtained through prescriptions for "patients" whose identities and Medicare beneficiary information had been stolen, and that members of the organization simply paid full retail price — about $1,200 for a single 90-pill bottle — because resale on the black market brought such large profits.

The indictment alleges a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, a conspiracy to commit health care fraud, substantive health care fraud charges, and unlicensed wholesale distribution of prescription drugs.

The scheme allegedly was orchestrated by Mike Mikaelian, 43, of East Hollywood and 52-year-old Anjelika Sanamian of Van Nuys, who operated the clinic, according to the indictment, which calls the medical office a "prescription mill" that both generated prescriptions for unneeded OxyContin and submitted claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal for medical services that were unnecessary or were never performed.

"The clinic at the center of the indictment was right near MacArthur Park, about a block away," said Rozek.

The indictment alleges that doctors Eleanor Santiago, 73, and 88-year-old Morris Halfon knowingly diverted the OxyContin by prescribing it to those with no medical need. The indictment further contends that a significant percentage of the prescriptions were filled at pharmacies owned by defendant Theodore C. Yoon, 67, of Arcadia.

The indictment alleges that Lake Medical used recruiters — called "cappers" — who brought Medicare and Medi-Cal patients to the clinic in exchange for cash or other rewards.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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