Four people, including two doctors, were arrested Thursday in the Southland on federal charges of diverting dangerous narcotics — primarily highly addictive opioids — to the black market.
The arrests were part of operation “Hypocritical Oath,” a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-led probe targeting doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and clinic operators suspected of illegally providing controlled substances to “patients” and black market customers in violation of their oaths to “do no harm,” federal authorities said.
Those arrested Thursday were:
— Dr. Michael Anthony Simental, 47, of Corona, who practices at the Kaiser Permanente facility in Riverside. He faces federal charges of illegally distributing hydrocodone, an opioid found in drugs such as Vicodin. Prosecutors said the investigation into Simental began after one of his patients died of a drug overdose last June.
— Dr. Reza Ray Ehsan, 60, of Bel-Air, who faces charges of unlawfully selling controlled drugs to an agent posing as a patient during undercover meetings in December and January. According to an affidavit in the case, Ehsan allegedly sold more than 700,000 pills — mostly opioid painkillers — in 2015 and 2016, and did not report the sales.
— Saloumeh Rahbarvafaei, 40, of Northridge, a nurse practitioner employed at several locations, including the Good Neighbor Clinic in Leimert Park. According to the criminal complaint, undercover agents allegedly purchased prescriptions from Rahbarvafaei during five separate transactions last year.
— Ana Leblanc, 33, of Chino Hills, who worked at a Santa Ana clinic for two weeks last year. She is charged with fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs. According to a criminal complaint, Leblanc, who has no authority to handle or prescribe controlled substances, used a prescription pad from her employer to write prescriptions for controlled substances, including oxycodone, to herself and others.
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