ICE busts fake medical clinics for diverting narcotics to black market

More than a dozen individuals have been arrested and charged with federal drug trafficking for allegedly operating sham medical clinics to divert more than 2 million deadly and addictive prescription pills to the black market, according to a news release by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles alleges that Minas Matosyan of Encino, California paid corrupt doctors to issue fraudulent prescriptions and headed six of the sham medical clinics.

In exchange for issuing fraudulent prescriptions under their names, the doctors received substantial kickbacks – in one case, as much as $120,000 – derived from proceeds generated at the fraudulent clinics. The ICE report stated that “Medicare was billed more than $500,000 for purported patient care.”

Authorities claim that the conspirators forged prescriptions in the names of doctors who objected to going along with the scheme.

The court document also states that conspirators issued prescriptions and submitted fraudulent billings in the name of a doctor who had been hospitalized and later died.

 In a recorded conversation described in court documents, Matosyan discussed how one doctor was paid “for sitting at home,” while thousands of narcotic pills were prescribed in that doctor’s name and Medicare was billed more than $500,000 for purported patient care.

After fraudulent prescriptions were obtained in mass amounts, Matosyan and his conspirators would open sham “pop-up” clinics on the streets to sell narcotics, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The indictment also charged Matosyan and others with obstruction of justice for allegedly creating fraudulent medical records in an effort to deter the investigation and make it appear that the drugs had been legitimately prescribed.

“The two indictments charge 14 defendants who allegedly participated in an elaborate scheme they mistakenly hoped would conceal a high-volume drug trafficking operation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “In addition to generating illicit profits, this scheme helped drive the prescription drug epidemic that is causing so much harm across our nation.”

The 12 defendants arrested Thursday include:

  • Minas Matosyan, 36, of Encino, who is accused of leading the scheme by recruiting corrupt doctors, overseeing the theft of other doctors’ identities, and negotiating the sale of fraudulent prescriptions and narcotic pills;
  • Armen Simonyan, 52, of Burbank, who allegedly managed the operations at some of the fraudulent clinics;
  • Grisha Sayadyan, 66, of Burbank, who allegedly managed the operations at various clinics and sold oxycodone and Vicodin pills directly to black market customers;
  • Sabrina Guberman, 45, of Encino, who, while working at the sham clinics, allegedly lied to pharmacies seeking to verify the fraudulent narcotic prescriptions, which included creating and sending fake medical paperwork;
  • Frederick Manning Jr., 47, of Santa Ana, allegedly one of the major drug customers of the clinics, who is charged with agreeing to purchase as many as 1,000 pills per week of narcotics from Matosyan;
  • Fred Minassian, 50, of Glendale, the criminal defense attorney who allegedly spearheaded the scheme to lie to law enforcement by making it falsely appear that Vicodin seized from Frederick Manning Jr. had been legitimately prescribed by a doctor;
  • Ralph Manning, 49, of North Hills (no relation to Frederick Manning Jr.), who is charged with being one of the principal couriers Matosyan used to deliver fraudulent prescriptions and “bulk quantities” of narcotic pills;
  • Hayk Matosyan, 30, of Granada Hills, Matosyan’s brother, who allegedly filled fraudulent narcotic prescriptions at pharmacies and sold the resulting narcotics pills to black-market customers.
  • Marisa Montenegro, 54, of West Hills, who allegedly filled fraudulent prescriptions;
  • Elizabeth Gurumdzhyan, 25, of Hollywood, who allegedly filled fraudulent prescriptions;
  • Anait Guyumzhyan, 27, of Hollywood, who allegedly filled prescriptions for oxycodone and returned the drugs to Matosyan-operated clinics in exchange for cash payment; and
  • James Wilson, 54, of Venice, who alone is charged in the second indictment with illegally selling oxycodone prescriptions out of a Long Beach clinic that he controlled.

All 12 defendants were arraigned Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court.

Law enforcement officials are still tracking down two named defendants: Gary Henderson, 62, of Lancaster, who allegedly purchased fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions from Matosyan; and an unidentified conspirator known only by the name “Cindy.”

Matosyan faces a maximum of 165 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

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