By City News Service
A Glendale criminal defense attorney who allegedly provided phony information to law enforcement to thwart an investigation into a pills-for-profit scheme is expected to plead guilty to a federal charge, as of the News-Press’ Friday deadline.
The 57-year-old suspect has agreed to enter his plea to a single count of making a false statement to a government agency, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Prosecutors contend the suspect participated in a scheme to distribute powerful prescription opioids via sham medical clinics that hired corrupt doctors who wrote fraudulent prescriptions to black market customers.
The scheme’s ringleader, Minas “Maserati Mike” Matosyan, 42, of Encino, was sentenced in May 2020 to nine years behind bars after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
Members of the conspiracy profited from illicit prescriptions that were issued without any legitimate medical purpose through a series of clinics that periodically opened and closed in a “nomadic” style, according to an indictment returned in the summer of 2017 against Matosyan, the suspect and 11 others.
The suspect admitted in his plea agreement to providing false information to police to thwart an investigation into the seizure of a load of Vicodin from one of the conspiracy’s biggest customers.
The charge against the suspect stems from May 18, 2016, when ring customer Frederick Manning Jr. bought 140 hydrocodone pills from Matosyan in an Encino parking lot. Manning was subsequently stopped by the California Highway Patrol and the pills seized. Manning indicated to the officer that there was a valid prescription for the pills, according to the plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Unbeknownst to the defendants, the traffic stop was part of a large-scale federal narcotics trafficking investigation.
Matosyan introduced Manning to the suspect, who would serve as Manning’s attorney. The three subsequently discussed various types of documentation that could be created and sent to CHP with the goal of convincing the agency not to charge Manning for unlawful possession of the seized hydrocodone.
It was decided that sending law enforcement a false doctor’s note would “100% guarantee” that police would not inquire further.
On June 29, 2016, Matosyan called the suspect and asked the lawyer what the letter needed to include. He said the letter needed to state that Manning was seen by a physician who was treating him for back pain and prescribed hydrocodone, according to the plea agreement.
Matosyan then created a letter in the name of a legitimate doctor, who had no idea what was going on, which falsely stated that, in May 2016, the doctor had prescribed hydrocodone to Manning to treat back pain. On July 1, 2016, the suspect directed two documents to be faxed to law enforcement. The first was a letter on the defendant’s Glendale law firm’s letterhead with the suspect’s signature, his plea agreement states.
The second document was the false letter purporting to be from the doctor that Matosyan created. The suspect admitted directing the false documents to be sent to law enforcement, according to his plea agreement.
Soon after the defendant directed the faxing of the two documents to law enforcement, a detective, who was working with federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, contacted the doctor and learned that the letter was false.
The charge of making a false statement to a government agency carries a sentence of up to five years in federal prison, prosecutors noted.
First published in the October 21 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.