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Pair charged with $375,000 claims fraud

Mark R. Madler

Co-owners of a Burbank pharmacy, arrested this week on suspicion of

filing false claims with the state’s Medi-Cal program, had previous

run-ins with the state agency that oversees pharmacies, records show.

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Sofik Nazarian and Vrej Oganesian were taken into custody on

Tuesday by state Justice Department agents on suspicion of grand

theft for billing Medi-Cal $375,000 in medical supplies that were

never given to patients.

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The pair operated the Best Pharmacy & Medical Supply Inc., on

South Glenoaks Boulevard. Both bonded out of the Los Angeles County

Jail for $50,000 each, said Teresa Schilling, a spokeswoman for the

state Attorney General’s office.

“The attorney general is really proactive in trying to crack down

on this,” Schilling said. “We are creating avenues for people to tip

us off.”

A $100 reward is given to people who provide information leading

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to the arrest and conviction of someone engaging in Medi-Cal fraud,

Schilling said.

Medi-Cal provides health care for low-income adults and children,

seniors and the disabled.

Nazarian and Oganesian, both of Glendale, are scheduled to appear

in Burbank Superior Court on Aug. 16.

If convicted, the attorney general’s office will seek full

restitution, Schilling said.

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Nazarian, 47, has been disciplined in the past by the state

Department of Consumer Affairs and Oganesian, 40, is facing pending

disciplinary action, said Patricia Harris, executive officer of the

state Pharmacy Board.

The board will take a look at the allegations in the criminal case

and then decide if additional action needs to be taken against the

pair by the department, Harris said.

The department revoked Nazarian’s pharmacy technician license in

January 2003 for dispensing prescriptions without a pharmacist

present; fraudulently billing Medi-Cal for $3,346 for the

prescriptions she gave out; and taking and receiving prescriptions

over the telephone, consumer affairs department records showed. She

was issued the license in 2000.

It is unusual that the department investigates cases of pharmacy

technicians dispensing prescriptions, Harris said.

“Pharmacies are very well-regulated so we get very few cases of

this type,” Harris said.

The pharmacy’s state license was placed on three year’s probation

in January 2003 by the consumer affairs department. The pharmacy was

not allowed to operate for 14 days and its owners required to obey

all laws, department records show.

In March of this year, the consumer affairs department filed a

petition to revoke Best Pharmacy’s probation and revoke their license

altogether due to allegations that Oganesian had access to the

prescription area in violation of the state Code of Regulations, Best

Pharmacy filled prescriptions for a three-week period in July 2003

without a pharmacist on duty and that Oganesian allegedly interfered

with monitoring visits by a department inspector.

Oganesian was issued a pharmacy technician license in September

2000 and it remains active, state records show.

Medi-Cal fraud can be reported by calling the Bureau Medi-Cal

Fraud and Elder Abuse at (800) 722-0432; the Department of Health

Services at (800) 822-6222.


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