PALMDALE – A former Antelope Valley physician pleaded guilty on Monday, Oct. 16, to federal narcotics charges for illegally dispensing prescriptions for often-abused controlled substances — including opioid-based medications — during telemedicine sessions with “patients” from across the United States.
Raphael Tomas Malikian, 39, who lives in Llano and Palmdale, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the acquisition of a controlled substance by fraud and one count of distribution of oxycodone, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer scheduled a Feb. 5, 2024, sentencing hearing, at which time Malikian will face up to 20 years in federal prison for distribution of oxycodone and up to four years for aiding and abetting the acquisition of a controlled substance by fraud. The Medical Board of California suspended Malikian’s medical license in November 2021. His license expired last November.
According to his plea agreement, from at least December 2019 to August 2021, Malikian was a licensed physician and, in this role, was authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe medication. Malikian also owned and operated Happy Family Medicine, a medical clinic that was advertised as being in a co-working space, but primarily offered telehealth services via telephone or text message communications. Malikian issued prescriptions for controlled substances to customers without first obtaining the person’s full medical history, conducting a physical examination, requiring medical testing or utilizing diagnostic tools. Malikian did not verify his customers’ identities before prescribing controlled substances, and he allowed customers to obtain prescriptions in the names of others.
He also worked with two co-conspirators, who provided Malikian with false names, addresses and dates of birth, and Malikian issued controlled substance prescriptions accordingly, which the co-conspirators then filled and re-sold on the black market. Many of Malikian’s fraudulent controlled substance prescriptions contained notes on the prescriptions or accompanying documentation that falsely urged pharmacies not to verify such prescriptions because medications were needed and the failure to dispense could be life-threatening because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malikian issued hundreds of false prescriptions for liquid promethazine with codeine during this period — including to people he knew were fictitious patients and which totaled more than 82 liters — and directed them to be sent to various pharmacies across the nation for co-conspirators to obtain, federal prosecutors said.
From April to July of 2020, Malikian prescribed to a buyer 702 pills of 10 milligrams oxycodone and 240 milliliters of promethazine with codeine. The customer, in fact, was an undercover law enforcement officer. Malikian issued each prescription to this buyer without conducting proper medical evaluations or verifying the buyer’s identity and was performed outside the scope of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. In addition, from May to July of 2020, Malikian prescribed to a customer — who also was an undercover law enforcement officer — 234 pills of the painkiller Norco, which contained a total of 2,340 milligrams of the opioid hydrocodone and 180 pills of alprazolam, an anxiety medication sold under the brand name Xanax.
Once again, Malikian issued each prescription to the buyer without conducting proper medical evaluations or verifying the buyer’s identity and was performed outside the scope of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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