33 People Accused of Conspiring in Unlicensed Distribution of Prescription Drugs, Racketeering, and Money Laundering

Thirty-three people have been indicted by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on charges of conspiring to sell illegally procured wholesale prescription drugs, committing bank fraud, laundering money and racketeering.

Thirty-two of the defendants were arrested today, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of San Francisco.

The fugitive defendant is David Miller, 50, of Santa Ana, who is alleged in the indictment to have owned a wholesale prescription drug operation in Minnesota.

He is alleged to have purchased $157 million worth of unlicensed drugs between 2010 and 2014 from co-defendants Mihran Stepanyan, 29, and his cousin, Artur Stepanayan, 38, both of Glendale.

The indictment was issued under seal on April 28 and unsealed today following the arrests.

Most of the defendants live in Southern California, according to the indictment, but some of the criminal activity is alleged to have taken place at unidentified locations in Northern California, including deposits of fraudulently obtained cash and checks and one delivery of illegally procured wholesale drugs.

The central figures in the enterprise, according to the indictment, were allegedly the two Stepanyans and Ara Karapedyan, 45, of Northridge, who owned a pizza restaurant in North Hollywood.

All 33 defendants are accused of conspiring to commit wire, mail and bank fraud. Twenty-nine are charged with money laundering conspiracy.

Various combinations of the defendants are also accused of conspiring to engage in the unlicensed wholesale distribution of drugs, racketeering, and committing identity theft as part of a scheme to obtain fraudulent tax refunds.

Karapedyan and Gevork Ter-Mkrtchyan, who ran a nonprofit medical clinic, are charged with trying to arrange a murder-for-hire for $1,500 of someone who had angered Ter-Mkrtchyan. The murder did not happen, the indictment said.

Most of the defendants made initial appearances before federal magistrates in Los Angeles today and are due to reappear before U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Corley in San Francisco on March 12, 20 or 22, according to U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Abraham Simmons.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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