A former Irvine doctor was sentenced Thursday to 20 months in prison for her role in a health care fraud operation in which nearly 1 million OxyContin pills were illegally obtained and sold.
U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson also ordered Eleanor M. Santiago, 77, to serve two years of supervised release after she gets out of prison and to pay a share of more than $3 million in restitution.
Santiago pleaded guilty in August 2012 to one count of health care fraud tied to a drug trafficking ring based at a medical clinic in the Westlake district of Los Angeles.
Defense attorney Steven M. Goldsobel, arguing for non-custodial sentence, told the judge that his client was an “elderly, malleable person” when she pre-signed thousands of blank prescription forms that were used to obtain OxyContin.
“I’m not for a moment saying she wasn’t aware” of how the prescriptions were being used, he said.
An indictment handed down in Los Angeles described Lake Medical Group on West 8th Street in Los Angeles as 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.
Prosecutors said Santiago and other physicians at Lake Medical knowingly diverted the OxyContin by prescribing it to people who did not have a medical need.
A significant percentage of the prescriptions were filled at Southland pharmacies owned and operated by members of the conspiracy, according to federal prosecutors, who said almost 1 million OxyContin pills flooded the streets, where they were peddled for about $25 per pill.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lana Morton-Owens told the court that while Santiago cooperated at times during the Lake Medical probe, the defendant also lied to investigators.
Pregerson gave Santiago until July 28 to turn herself in to begin serving her prison sentence.
According to court papers, the scheme began in 2008 when co-defendants Mike Mikaelian and Anjelica Sanamian, who have no medical background, launched the downtown pain management clinic.
Sixteen defendants have been been convicted in the case, including Mikaelian and four others who are awaiting sentencing. Sanamian is serving an eight-year prison sentence for her role in the scheme.
— City News Service
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