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AIDS doctor indicted in medical fraud

July 29, 2005

Lauren Vane and Andrew Edwards

A Newport Coast doctor operating several Orange County clinics -- one

in Laguna Beach -- was indicted last week on a 29-count indictment

alleging that he conspired with a former assistant to under medicate

patients treated for AIDS, HIV and hepatitis.

The charges filed against doctor George Steven Kooshian, 54, and

Virgilio Lopez Opinion, 45, include conspiracy, healthcare fraud and

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making false statements relating to healthcare matters. In a 2001

civil lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court, Opinion himself

alleged he was ordered by Kooshian to treat patients with saline

solution instead of prescription drugs.

Among several clinics in Long Beach and Garden Grove, Kooshian

also operated the Ocean View Internal Medicine clinic in the 1000

block of Glenneyre Street in Laguna.

Kooshian sold all four clinics under the names Valley View and

Ocean View to another doctor, Sue Lalla-Reddy, one year ago, said

clinic Public Relations Manager Shirley Joubeen.

The Ocean View and Valley View clinics have never been associated

with Kooshian under those namesakes, Joubeen said.

The clinic staff has not had a relationship with Kooshian since he

sold the practice, Joubeen said.

"Our practice is thriving and we've had no problems," Joubeen

said.

Kooshian served for four years on the board of directors at Shanti

OC, a support-based organization for HIV and AIDS patients; he was

popular with patients, said Shanti OC Director Sarah Kasman.

"His patients, our clients, loved him," Kasman said. "He was very

attentive to their needs, he always went the extra mile for them."

Kooshian and Opinion have not been taken into custody, Assistant

U.S. Atty. Jeannie Joseph said. The pair are expected to be arraigned

in August at U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. The maximum penalty

for each of the 25 fraud counts is 10 years in federal prison.

Convictions for conspiracy and the three counts of making false

statements could each carry a five-year prison term.

The indictment alleges patients were mistreated between January

1995 and February 2001, claiming Kooshian instructed Opinion to

dilute medication with saline or water or to provide doses that

contained little or no medicine. A federal grand jury also charged

the pair with $1.2 million worth of fraudulent claims made to

Medicare and private insurers.

The fraud charges include allegations that patients were

improperly told to inject themselves with medicine, Joseph said.

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