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Charges filed against illegal health clinic operators for preying on low-income patients

May 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Charges are filed against the operators of a health clinic accused of handing out "bad medicine" to low-income patients. Authorities say there are lots of illegal clinics out there.

The criminal charges against the clinics' owners and operators were filed a few months after investigators raided that facility and seized a million dollars in drugs, and Eyewitness News broke the story then.

In the basement of a county building in downtown Los Angeles, huge amounts of illegal pharmaceuticals are stacked into dozens of cardboard boxes.

Erick Aguilar is with L.A. County's Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT). He's says the evidence seized during an investigation into a vitamin store near downtown L.A. adds up to more than a million dollars.

"We don't know what's in it. We don't know how it's been stored and transported," said Aguilar.

Aguilar says the illegal pharmaceuticals were being sold and administered at a store on the 1800 block of James Wood Boulevard.

Five months after authorities raided the business, the city attorney's office has charged nine people in connection with the operation.

"They prey on the undocumented community," said L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. He says owners of Excellent Nutrition and J & R Beauty Supply were practicing medicine without a license and illegally selling prescription drugs, some of them banned in the U.S.

"So somebody walks in, a person who represents themself in a white smock to be a physician or a physician's assistant, with absolutely no medical background," said Trutanich.

The investigation into Excellent Nutrition started in December after Eyewitness News learned of a mother and son who said they were hospitalized after receiving treatment at Excellent Nutrition.

"The two people that brought it to your attention, they still have outstanding medical bills," said Trutanich.

The nine people who were charged by the city attorney's office on Wednesday include 55-year-old Miguel Angel Dominguez and 53-year-old Araceli Ramirez, the co-owners of Excellent Nutrition.

The store has been closed since the county task force raided it in December.

"We're happy with just shutting the place down, which was what we were hoping for," said Aguilar.

Storefronts that operate as illegal clinics complete with examining rooms and pharmacies are not uncommon in Los Angeles. And authorities say they present a real danger to the community.

"And for the last 10 years, these places have multiplied," said Trutanich. "We need to cut it out."

The district attorney has not filed felony charges against those involved. Trutanich brought misdemeanor charges against the nine people who owned and worked the operation. If they are convicted, Trutanich says he will ask for restitution and jail time.


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