A Los Angeles physician’s assistant — who was previously convicted of using the stolen identities of doctors as part of a $10.7 million Medicare scam — was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for his role in an unrelated health care fraud operation in which nearly 1 million OxyContin pills were illegally obtained and sold.

David James Garrison, 53, of Leimert Park, was found guilty in October of conspiracy to divert and distribute the opiate painkiller without medical need.

Prosecutors said Garrison was paid at least $4,000 in cash each month for writing illegal prescriptions for full-strength OxyContin for patients of a downtown Los Angeles medical clinic. He also created phony medical notes to justify the medically unnecessary orders, authorities said.

Garrison claimed he was a minor player in the scheme and didn’t know the full extent of the illegal operation.

“He sold his license and betrayed our trust in the system that keeps these drugs off the street,” U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson said.

Garrison, who has completed about half of his six-year prison sentence in the earlier case, now has about 13 years to serve.

In an extended statement to the court, Garrison said he practiced medicine for more than 20 years, but had been manipulated by the ringleaders of the OxyContin scheme.

“I’ve learned that the people I worked for had another agenda,” he said as family members looked on. “I’ve always tried to do my best for my patients.”

Putting his predicament in Biblical terms, Garrison told the court that he has been “lied to, conspired against …. but I’m still here.”

While incarcerated, “I have been subjected to humiliating strip searches and been around people I never thought I’d be around,” he said.

According to court papers, the scheme began in 2008 when co-defendants Mike Mikaelian and Anjelica Sanamian, who have no medical background, launched a pain management clinic called Lake Medical Group. The clinic became known on the streets as a “pill mill,” authorities said.

A Los Angeles federal grand jury returned an updated indictment in 2012 charging Mikaelian, Sanamian, Garrison and about a dozen others with participating in a drug trafficking organization that obtained the pills in part through fraud against public insurance programs such as Medicare.

Garrison was instrumental in helping “put the OxyContin on the street,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lana Morton-Owens told the court. “He was fully involved in the conspiracy …. and had the medical knowledge to know how dangerous it was.”

According to the indictment, Lake Medical, on West Eighth Street, was a base of operations for doctors who wrote OxyContin prescriptions for Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries, as well as other patients, who did not need the drug.

During a January 2010 undercover video, Garrison “did not even look up when the undercover patient claimed to be taking OxyContin 80mg strength for pain, including ‘carpal tunnel’ and ‘crink in the neck,”‘ according to court documents.

The pills were obtained from Southland pharmacies, some of which submitted fraudulent bills to the public insurance programs, according to federal prosecutors. Members of the conspiracy resold more than 900,000 OxyContin pills on the street, reaping an estimated $17 million in profits.

To deal with the large amounts of cash generated from the illegal OxyContin sales, some of the defendants “structured” cash deposits by making bank deposits in amounts of $10,000 or less to evade bank reporting requirements, prosecutors said.

Other defendants used proceeds from drug sales to gamble at casinos to purchase automobiles and jewelry and to buy more OxyContin, court papers show.

Mikaelian and Sanamian have pleaded guilty to federal charges and await sentencing.

Garrison was convicted in June 2012 of health care fraud and identity theft and sentenced to the six-year federal prison term. Evidence showed that he worked at phony medical clinics that operated as prescriptions mills and trafficked in bogus prescriptions and orders for medically unneeded equipment such as power wheelchairs, and diagnostic tests.

City News Service

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