California men charged as ringleaders of nationwide prescription drug plot


Thirty-three people have been indicted in a wide-ranging scam to sell more than $150 million in illegal pharmaceuticals in California and several other states, federal prosecutors in San Francisco announced Thursday.

Officials said Ara Karapedyan, 45; Mihran Stepanyan, 29; and Artur Stepanyan, 38, were central to the conspiracy, which involved the selling illegally obtained drugs to a Minnesota company that sold the drugs wholesale.

David Miller, a 50-year-old Santa Ana resident and head of the Minnesota Independent Cooperative, bought approximately $157 million in drugs from the Stepanyans through various shell companies from 2010 to 2014, according to a statement released by the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California.


Miller was aware that the drugs he was getting from Karapedyan, the Stepanyans and other California sources had not been obtained legally, but he agreed to purchase and sell them anyway, prosecutors said. He also directed employees to doctor invoices to hide the fact that the drugs had not been obtained legally, they said.

The drugs included painkillers and other medications used to treat HIV or cancer, prosecutors said.

Mihran Stepanyan is a Glendale resident who owns a North Hollywood company called Niva Pharmaceuticals. His cousin Artur also lives in Glendale, according to a copy of the indictment unsealed Thursday.

Karapedyan, a Northridge resident who owns a North Hollywood pizzeria, allegedly supplied the Stepanyans with drugs and made several unlicensed street sales of painkillers and HIV drugs to other co-defendants, according to the indictment.

A separate indictment, unsealed Thursday in Ohio, charges Miller and the Stepanyans with procuring and selling illegal drugs there, prosecutors said.

Karapedyan and another defendant, Gevork Ter-Mkrtchyan, were also charged in a murder-for-hire plot as part of the indictment. The pair made “several attempts” to find someone willing to kill an unidentified person who had angered Ter-Mkrtchyan, prosecutors said. While they paid $1,500 for the execution, it did not actually take place, prosecutors said.

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