Feds Increasing Raids on "Pill Mill" Operations in Santa Ana, Statewide

November 2, 2011
By The Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera, Jr. on November 2, 2011 1:14 PM |

In recent weeks, two major pill-mill busts have been announced by federal investigators who are also alleging the defendants defrauded Medicare in the process.

The most recent centered around a doctor in Glendale and a pharmacy in San Marion, The Associated Press reports.
A few weeks earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported, 14 people were indicted and charged with operating an OxyContin ring where identities and even Medicare beneficiary information was stolen.

Pill mills have been getting a lot of attention from law enforcement agencies as they have become much more profitable and easier to operate than large-scale marijuana, cocaine and heroin businesses of the past.

In pill-mill operations, doctors, pharmacists and drug delivery companies have all come under scrutiny for allegations of fraud in Santa Ana and elsewhere. Not only are investigators considering these drug cases, but also fraud cases and possibly racketeering operations.

This makes the charges even more difficult to beat, but it's not impossible. As Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers know, these complicated investigations often ensnare a dozen or more defendants, while the facts may not support convictions for all of them.

In order to show that a person is guilty of fraud in these drug cases, prosecutors must prove there is intent and knowledge of such a scheme. A low-end employee may have unknowingly operated a part of the scheme without realizing he or she was involved in illegal activity, for instance.

In the first alleged operation, a doctor, operators of pain clinics and others -- 14 total -- were indicted on charges of insurance fraud and operating a scheme to obtain and illegally distribute the painful painkiller OxyContin.

Officials accuse doctors of writing prescriptions to uninsured patients who didn't need the drug. Medicare and other insurance companies were also fraudulently billed by pharmacies, the indictments allege. In some cases, Medicare beneficiary information and identities were stolen. The penalties range from 10 to 40 years in prison.

In the most recent alleged scam, 16 people operated an $18 million scheme that defrauded Medicare after veterans, the homeless, elderly and poor were recruited. Court documents accuse a pain clinic doctor of writing prescriptions for anti-psychotic drugs, such as Seroquel, Abilify and Zyprexa.

The drugs were billed to Medi-Cal and Medicare, but didn't go to the people whose names were on the bill, the news report states. The drugs were instead sold illegally and funneled to San Gabriel Valley, where they were repackaged and resold for profit.

Some Medicare beneficiaries whose identities were stolen were later denied coverage after this happened, authorities allege. The government alleges that of the $18 million in billing, about $7.3 million was actually paid out. One pharmacy -- Huntington Pharmacy in San Marino -- had less than $45,000 in Medi-Cal claims in 2009, but that jumped to $1.5 million a year later.

If you are facing felony charges in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. to discuss your options. With three decades of experience, Attorney LaBarbera has argued more than 200 criminal trials and appeals. Call (714) 541-9668 for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights.

More Blog Entries:

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Orange County Come Under Fire: October 26, 2011

Additional Resources:

14 people accused in OxyContin insurance fraud scheme, by Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times