SAN FRANCISCO – Nearly three dozen people have been charged in California as part of a criminal network that illegally sold millions of dollars in prescription drugs and engaged in bank fraud, money laundering and racketeering, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
Prosecutors alleged a widespread conspiracy that included numerous companies and activity in California, Minnesota, Ohio and Puerto Rico.
The group — some of them family members with ties to Southern California — got prescription drugs from unlicensed sources and resold them to unwitting customers, prosecutors said.
According to a grand jury indictment, David Miller, 50, ran a drug wholesale business called the Minnesota Independent Cooperative. The business bought about $157 million in drugs from Mihran Stepanyan, 29, and Artur Stepanyan, 38, even though Miller knew they were not licensed to sell drugs and obtained them illegally, the seven-count indictment says.
Ara Karapedyan, 45, another key figure in the enterprise, sold several hundred thousand dollars of drugs, including the antidepressants Cymbalta and Abilify and the cancer drug Gleevec, prosecutors said.
Karapedyan and the Stepanyans were among 32 people arrested Wednesday, according to the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California. Miller remains at large.
The U.S. attorney's office said it did not know whether any of the defendants had attorneys who could comment on the allegations. Most of them appeared before federal judges Wednesday but did not enter pleas.
In addition to illegal prescription drug sales, the enterprise is accused of preparing fraudulent tax returns that relied on an unlicensed mailbox business for addresses. Karapedyan and his associates negotiated more than 500 fraudulent checks worth more than $5 million between 2012 and 2014, according to prosecutors.
Karapedyan and another defendant, Gevork Ter-Mkrtchyan, are also accused of paying $1,500 to have someone killed, though prosecutors said the hit was never carried out.