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Laguna Hills doctor pleads guilty to defrauding Medi-Cal of $20 million

A Laguna Hills doctor pleaded guilty to defrauding Medi-Cal of more than $20 million by prescribing unnecessary medications to patients that were later sold on the black market, officials said.

Mohamed Waddah El-Nachef, 69, appeared in Orange County Superior Court on Wednesday to plead guilty to one count of insurance fraud and one count of aiding and abetting the unauthorized practice of medicine, state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said in a statement.

El-Nachef was recruited by individuals who were involved in illegally selling the medications, according to Bonta’s office. From June 2015 to April 2016, El-Nachef prescribed unnecessary HIV medications, antipsychotic drugs and opioids to more than 1,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries who posed as patients in need of medications in exchange for cash payments.

El-Nachef prescribe the drugs to patients out of two clinics — one in Anaheim and one in Los Angeles, according to Bonta’s office.

Court documents state El-Nachef worked with two convicted felons, Steve Fleming and Oscar Abrons, in the illegal prescription drug operation. Prosecutors said that El-Nachef “never conducted good-faith medical exams or otherwise validated that the patients actually needed the drugs he prescribed” and that many of his patients “did not have HIV, nor had a legitimate need for the psychotic medications or controlled drugs.”

As part of his plea, El-Nachef is required to pay $2.3 million in restitution and surrender his medical license, according to the state attorney general.

“El-Nachef used his position as a physician to steal taxpayer money from our state programs and fuel illicit pharmaceutical sales on the streets of Southern California — all for personal gain,” Bonta said. “Today, he was held accountable and ordered to give back what he took from the people of California. Abuses of power — whether big or small — will never be tolerated by the California Department of Justice. As the people’s attorney, I will continue to protect the programs designed to help our most vulnerable residents.”

El-Nachef is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 1.

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