Man Arrested for Selling Prescription Drugs Without a License

SAN FRANCISCO – On June 18, 2018 the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced charges against Vi Thieu Binh, 67, for selling and holding for sale, prescription drugs without a license. Binh is also charged with selling and holding for sale counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated, and unapproved drugs.

Binh’s arrest follows an investigation by the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health, as well as federal investigators.

According to court records, Binh owns Hue An Company (also known as Ng Hing Kee, Inc.), a San Francisco retail establishment that purportedly sells herbs and ginseng. Binh became the subject of an investigation following an incident in November 2014, when an elderly man allegedly ingested Anti Rheuma capsules purchased from an unlicensed seller in Oakland and was hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit at San Leandro Hospital.

Anti Rheuma capsules are nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs that are intended to suppress pain, reduce inflammation, minimize joint deterioration, and treat rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. They are not approved by the FDA and are illegal. The capsules, which the individual had purchased at a retail store in Oakland, listed ingredients that required a prescription.

According to court records, investigators also received information that Hue An Company was also a separate potential seller of Anti Rheuma capsules. A joint investigation by state and federal agencies found that on multiple dates between December 2016 and October 2017, Binh sold and held for sale a variety of drugs, including Anti Rheuma capsules and those containing prescription ingredients, at Hue An Company. The Anti Rheuma capsules sold by Binh were found to contain active ingredients that were removed from the U.S. market because they had been deemed to be unsafe or ineffective by the FDA. Many of the drugs sold or held for sale were also counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated, or unapproved by the FDA.

In January 2018, a search warrant was executed at Hue An Company, uncovering nearly 600 products believed to be prescription-only, counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated, or unapproved drugs.

“Selling counterfeit, falsely labeled, improperly mixed, or new and unapproved drugs is illegal and buying and using them is dangerous,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  “This case demonstrates the need for food and drug investigators to protect the public.”

If a seller does not ask for a prescription, he/she is likely operating illegally. A licensed professional will require a prescription from a doctor before he/she can complete the sale.

"Regulations on who can sell prescription drugs exist to protect consumers," said District Attorney George Gascón. "In this case, someone became seriously ill as a result of acquiring drugs from an unlicensed seller. If you know of retail establishments unlawfully selling prescription drugs, please contact the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health."

State Park Rangers Respond to Abandoned Panga Boat at Crystal Cove State Park Lead successful search for suspects who fled the scene

LAGUNA BEACH – When California State Parks rangers discovered a panga boat that washed ashore in Crystal Cove State Park early June 19, 2018, they quickly accessed the seriousness of the situation, called in additional allied resources, and began searching for those who abandoned the boat.

“These types of panga boats that are showing up abandoned along California’s coastline are used by criminals who are smuggling drugs and people into our state and country,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.   “Safety for responding officers and the community in which the suspects have fled into are a top concern.”

According to reports, State Parks rangers were the lead law enforcement agency in the search for as many as nine suspects who abandoned the boat and fled into the park at around 6:30 a.m. After a search by several law enforcement agencies, four men found hiding in bushes were detained.  All four are Mexican nationals and were transported to a Border Patrol facility.

Out of an abundance of caution, a nearby elementary school was placed on a “soft” lockdown meaning parents and school buses drivers were allowed to drop off students at the school. Laguna Beach Police Department kept officers on campus throughout the incident. Shortly before 10:00 a.m. the lockdown was lifted and normal operations resumed.

Young Benicia Man Convicted on Three Counts of First Degree Murder Evidence proved killer’s story was forensically impossible

PLACERVILLE - On June 13, 2018, an El Dorado County jury convicted Nolen Keith Buchanan of three counts of first degree murder with multiple enhancements for the use of a firearm in the commission of his crimes.

“This cold blooded, calculated killer was just 16 when he shot and killed his family and then set fire to their bodies,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  “Reading about this case, I am once again, in awe of the work our California Department of Justice criminalists do.  They were beyond the back bone of this case in court, and this killer was doing all he could to get away with the crimes.”

In the early morning hours of September 13, 2015, Nolen Buchanan shot and killed his father Adam Buchanan, his step-mother Molly McAfee, and his 8-year-old brother Gavin Buchanan at their vacation cabin in Greenwood.  Nolen Buchanan then proceeded to douse the bodies and the cabin in gasoline and set everything on fire, burning the cabin to its foundation. The then 16-year-old drove the family truck back to their home in Benicia and denied being at the cabin, concocting intricate lies to avoid detection, according to the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.

The evidence at trial showed that Nolen Buchanan planned the killings before leaving for the cabin that weekend. He attempted to establish an alibi, manipulated police, friends and family into believing he was shocked to hear of his family's deaths, and made plans to take over the family business. The jury, in finding Nolen Buchanan guilty of first degree murder, determined that the killings were willful, premeditated, and deliberate.

Nolen Buchanan testified at the jury trial that his father was the actual killer. In his new story of what happened, Nolen Buchanan explained that his father first shot his stepmother, then shot his brother, and, when his father turned the gun on the defendant, he wrestled the gun away from his father and shot him in self-defense. However, evidence proved that the defendant's new story was another lie because critical details of his story were determined to be forensically impossible.

“This is where California DOJ criminalists go to work,” said John Miller, president of the Association of Criminalists-DOJ.  “California DOJ forensic labs are incredible “one-stop-shops” for counties that do not have their own crime labs.  Our criminalists are passionate about scientific evidence and its role in solving crimes.  Our criminalists and latent print analysts are amazing at their jobs.  In this particular case they were called upon to do the forensics in an investigation that involved arson, a firearm, prints and DNA.”

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Jamie Pesce and Deputy District Attorney Kassie Cardullo.  Investigator Joe Ramsey and Victim Advocates Christy Canclini and Patti Harrington assisted during the prosecution.  The case was investigated by the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office and the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, with special assistance by the Sacramento County Coroner's Office, the California Department of Justice and the Benicia Police Department.

District Attorney Vern Pierson stated, "My hope is that these convictions can bring about some sense of justice and closure for the family members of the victims."

The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before returning their verdict. Nolen Buchanan is scheduled for sentencing on July 12, 2018.

Beverly Hills Doctor Sentenced to 10 Years in Custody for Massive Workers’ Comp Scheme

SAN DIEGO – On June 18,2018 Beverly Hills Radiologist Ronald Grusd and two of his corporations, California Imaging Network Medical Group and Willows Consulting Company, were sentenced in federal court after a jury trial in December resulted in convictions on 39 felony fraud counts.

Dr. Grusd was sentenced to 10 years in custody and fined $250,000.  His companies, California Imaging Network and Willows Consulting Company, were each required to pay a $500,000 fine, and an additional $15,600 in special assessments.

“This was a joint investigation that included the California Department of Insurance,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  “This case took years to investigate, prosecute and finally reach sentencing.  I applaud all those who stuck with it to see that justice is served.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Dr. Grusd and his companies paid kickbacks for patient referrals from multiple clinics in San Diego and Imperial counties in order to fraudulently bill insurance companies over $22 million for medical services.

Dr. Grusd negotiated with various individuals, including a primary treating physician, the payment of kickbacks for the referral of workers’ compensation patients for various medical services, including MRIs, ultrasounds, shockwave treatments, toxicology testing and prescription pain medications. After the patients were referred for the treatment or service, one of Dr. Grusd’s companies, California Imaging Network Medical Group, would fraudulently bill insurance companies for the procedures, concealing from both the patients and the insurers that substantial kickbacks had been paid in violation of California law. Another of Dr. Grusd’s companies, Willows Consulting Company, funneled the kickback payments to those directing the referral of the patients from the various clinics. Records presented at trial showed that Dr. Grusd paid over $100,000 in bribes to secure the billings for hundreds of patients, with bribes paid on a per-patient or per-body-part formula.

Dr. Grusd and the corporations were originally indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2015, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, working in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Insurance, announced multiple arrests arising from a long-term, proactive health care fraud investigation targeting corruption and fraud in the California Workers’ Compensation system.

Grusd’s practice, California Imaging Network Medical Group, operated clinics throughout California in San Diego, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Fresno, Rialto, Santa Ana, Studio City, Bakersfield, Calexico, East Los Angeles, Lancaster, Victorville and Visalia.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant found that Dr. Grusd “clearly knew what he was doing.”  Dr. Grusd, who had testified to his extensive education, training, and expertise as a highly-decorated radiologist, claimed on the witness stand at trial that he was confused and did not know that what he was doing was illegal.  Judge Bashant rejected this view, stating that Dr. Grusd was someone who decided to “find a way to defraud…then act dumb on the witness stand” when he got caught.  She imposed a sentencing penalty for Obstruction of Justice, finding that Grusd unequivocally committed perjury and lied at trial.

“A patient entrusts his life to his physician,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “A doctor’s medical decisions should be based on the best interest of the patient, not the highest bidder. The court recognized that Dr. Grusd perverted that sacred relationship by buying and selling patients – oftentimes on a per-body-part basis – to fuel his personal lifestyle.”

U.S. Attorney Braverman commended the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Insurance to investigate these offenses, and thanked San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan and her office for collaborating with the United States Attorney’s Office on this investigation.

DOJ Special Agents Assist in the Seizure of One Man’s Arsenal of 553 Firearms

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Photo

LOS ANGELES – On June 14, 2018, a joint operation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Justice led to the seizure of 553 firearms in Agua Dulce, an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County.

Special agents and deputies were investigating a tip that a local man was in possession of a large arsenal of firearms and that he was a convicted felon.  The law enforcement team served a search warrant at a home in Agua Dulce June 14th and arrested Manuel Fernandez, 60, after discovering 432 firearms.  Fernandez was arrested for being a felon in possession of firearms and a felon in possession of ammunition.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Photo

The search led investigators to a second location connected to Fernandez. The second warrant, also served in Agua Dulce, resulted in the seizure of 30 illegal firearms possessed by a female associate.  The female suspect was not home at the time of the warrant service. Detectives were preparing charges for the District Attorney for filing consideration.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Photo

A follow-up warrant to the residence of Manuel Fernandez on June 15, 2018, led to the seizure of an additional 91 firearms that were hidden within the home.  Detectives also seized computers, cellphones, and hard drives from the residence believed to be involved in the illicit purchase of firearms by the suspect.

“The job of investigating the illegal possession of firearms is extremely dangerous,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  “Removing these weapons from the possession of a felon contributes to the safety of all of us.”

Due to the large number of firearms recovered, detectives enlisted the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for tracing the purchase origination of the weapons.  Agents from both the California Department of Justice and ATF will be providing resources as the case continues through the court process.

“This case is a testament to the community’s involvement in reducing crime and taking guns out of the hands of criminals,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell.  “The swift response of our Palmdale Sheriff’s Station personnel and the assistance provided by our partners at the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms showed the positive result of our campaign ‘See Something, Say Something.’  We are proud of the relationship we have built in the Antelope Valley area as we continue to build trust with the communities we serve.”

Fernandez is scheduled to appear in court on July 9, 2018.

CDFW Wardens Assist Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputies in Marijuana Cultivation Busts

Humboldt County Sheriff Photo

EUREKA - On June 13 and 14, 2018, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens assisted deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) in serving search warrants to investigate the illegal cultivation of marijuana near the communities of Hyampom and Dinsmore.  The two investigations lead to the eradication of 8,462 marijuana plants, the seizure of 10 firearms and the arrests of two men.

The June 13th investigation focused on two parcels near Hyampom. Neither parcels had, or were in the process of obtaining, a commercial cannabis permit with the County of Humboldt. Law enforcement officers located five greenhouses and eight outdoor marijuana cultivation gardens. Officers eradicated a total of 5,387 marijuana plants, seized three firearms, and arrested Nou Kia Vang, 35, of Fresno on charges of unauthorized cultivation of marijuana, carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, streambed alteration without a permit and water pollution.

The June 14th investigation focused on two parcels near Dinsmore.  Once again, neither parcels had, or were in the process of obtaining, a commercial cannabis permit with the County of Humboldt. Law enforcement officers located 15 greenhouses and two outdoor marijuana cultivation gardens. Officers eradicated a total of 3,075 marijuana plants, seized seven firearms, and arrested Edward Daniel Starkey, 55, of Mad River on charges of unauthorized cultivation of marijuana, felon convicted of a violent crime in possession of firearms, stream bed alteration without a permit and depositing hazardous materials into a waterway.

“Investigating illegal marijuana cultivation operations is very dangerous for law enforcement officers,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  “Those cultivating illegal marijuana are often armed and, in some cases, convicted felons. I am thankful no officers were hurt.”

Humboldt County Sheriff Photo: Nou Kia Vang

Humboldt County Sheriff Photo: Edward Starkey