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Release No. 10-152
October 20, 2010
DOCTOR ARRESTED ON FEDERAL DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES FOR DISPENSING NARCOTICS WITHOUT EXAMINING ‘PATIENTS’
LOS ANGELES – A physician who practices at clinics in Downey and the Westlake District was arrested this afternoon on federal narcotics charges that allege he conspired with two employees to distribute powerful and addictive painkillers to “patients” he did not examine and who simply paid cash for prescriptions.
Nazar Al Bussam, 71, of Newport Coast, was arrested without incident at his Downey clinic by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Also arrested this afternoon were two of Al Bussam’s employees, who are charged along with the doctor in a criminal complaint. Rosemary Mendoza, 75, of West Covina, and James Park, 72, of Corona, were taken into custody at the Westlake clinic without incident.
According to a criminal complaint filed yesterday in United States District Court, the drugs involved in the case against Al Bussam are oxycodone, which is best known by its brand name, OxyContin; oxycodone/APAP, which is sold under the brand names Percocet and Percodan; hydromorphone, which is sold under the brand name, Dilaudid; hydrocodone, which is commonly sold under the brand names Vicodin, Norco and Lortab; alprazolam, which is marketed under the brand name Xanax; promethazine with codeine, which is used to make a street concoction variously known as “sizzurp,” “purple drank” or “lean”; buprenorphine, which is sold under the brand names Suboxone and Subutex; and carisoprodol, which is sold under the brand name Soma.
“The evidence obtained in this investigation indicates that from at least October 2007 to the present, Al Bussam has prescribed large quantities of highly addictive prescription controlled substances, including oxycodone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, and promethazine with codeine (both in brand name and generic form), without a legitimate medical purpose,” according to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.
The DEA estimates that during a recent two-year period Al Bussam wrote nearly 60,000 prescriptions that were used to obtain narcotics, with most of the prescriptions being used to obtain hydrocodone and alprazolam.
According to the complaint, Al Bussam came to the attention of the DEA in 2007 when a review of DEA databases indicated Al Bussam was among the top 10 prescribers of controlled substances in the Los Angeles area. In addition, several pharmacies in the Los Angeles area contacted the DEA regarding Al Bussam’s unusual and suspicious prescribing practices. The affidavit in the case notes that several of Al Bussam’s “patients” have been arrested in California and Texas for illegally selling drugs prescribed by the doctor.
As part of the investigation, undercover operatives went to Al Bussam’s clinic, saw the doctor and purchased prescriptions for various controlled substances, paying $100 in cash for each prescription.
After reviewing records related to prescriptions he wrote, the DEA estimates that Al Bussam in recent years appears to have received more than $100,000 in gross earnings per month, or well over $1 million per year. “Based on the entire investigation, I believe that a majority of this money was illegally obtained,” concludes the DEA special agent who authored the affidavit.
“In 2009, more than 7 million Americans abused prescription drugs, and prescription drug abuse continues to rise at alarming rates,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “Some of these dangerous drugs are obtained from doctors prescribing drugs for no medical purpose. DEA is committed to working together with our state and local counterparts to ensure those who abuse their authority are not allowed to continue.”
Al Bussam, Mendoza and Park are charged in the criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. All three defendants are expected to make their initial court appearances tomorrow morning in United States District Court.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which received assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Medical Board of California.
Release No. 10-1512
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