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Authorities raid Panorama City medical clinic, arrest 70 in Oxycontin prescription ‘pill mill’ bust

A pile of Oxycodone pills
A pile of Oxycodone pills
Photo by Be.Futureproof via Flickr Creative Commons

A raid on a medical clinic in Panorama City yesterday resulted in 70 arrests, including of physicians, for allegedly operating an illegal Oxycontin prescription ring or “pill mill.”

Wednesday morning’s raid on the Roscoe Van Nuys Medical Clinic included the arrest of Dr. Manuel Sison, the clinic’s medical director, who is also a physician at the L.A. County Jail, CBS reports.

During the raid, authorities from county, state and federal agencies found 42 patients in the clinic -- more than the clinic plausibly could have been taking on for legitimate medical concerns, agents told CBS.

According to wire service reports, the clinic at 8121 Van Nuys Blvd. was raided by the Health Authority Law Enforcement Taskforce, or HALT, consisting of authorities from the FBI, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, the state Department of Justice, the DEA, the IRS and the county Department of Health and Human Services. A description of the task force by the Sheriff’s Department says that it “investigates Medi-Cal fraud, counterfeit and illegal distribution of pharmaceuticals and the illegal practice of medicine and dentistry.”

Also arrested among the doctors, patients and clinic staff was the clinic’s manager, 52-year-old Aida Hawatmeh of Northridge. Several other doctors and clinic staff remain under investigation in the case, authorities said.

A “pill mill” is a place where drug dealers and addicts can pay hundreds of dollars for prescriptions -- usually for the powerful narcotic painkiller Oxycontin/Oxycodone -- without ever being examined by a doctor. The illegal operations can pull down many thousands of dollars a day. Authorities said Roscoe Van Nuys Medical Clinic was shut down once before for operating as a pill mill, but reopened later under different doctors.