Nine and a half years after the Weekly's R. Scott Moxley broke the story about well-known AIDS doctor George Steven Kooshian having injected patients with saline and vitamins instead of the expensive drugs they were billed for, the 59-year-old was sentenced Monday to 15 months in federal prison.
Kooshian--who operated clinics under the names Valley View Internal Medicine Group at two locations in Garden Grove and Ocean View Internal Medicine Group in Laguna Beach and Long Beach--was also ordered to pay $660,955 in restitution to 18 insurance companies for 21 patients who were subdosed.
The physician had charged patients up to $9,000 for each shot and used his earnings to pay for a lavish lifestyle that included a five-bedroom, 17,500-square-foot, ocean-view, Newport Coast mansion and fleet of cars (a black Z8 convertible BMW, a maroon Mercedes SUV, a silver Mercedes sedan and three Porsches).
Himself gay, Kooshian had performed numerous acts of undeniable kindness to gay patients and Southern California's gay community at large. But he stole from the sick, gay people he treated.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
FBI agents in 2005 used the results of Moxley's years of reporting on Kooshian as the basis for criminal charges brought against the unrepentant doctor. Moxley suffered threats of violence from anonymous callers, contempt from other media outlets, bitter letters to the editor, angry denials from Kooshian and promises of a libel lawsuit from his lawyers.
But Kooshian indicated last year he would plead guilty to two counts of health care fraud and two counts of making false statements relating to health care matters. He specifically admitted that he and his assistant improperly billed patients' health insurance companies for medications used to treat problems relating to AIDS, HIV and hepatitis.
The medications included Epogen, which is used to treat anemia; Interferon, which is used to treat Kaposi's sarcoma; and Immunogammaglobulin, which is used to treat peripheral neuropathy or numbness of the extremities.
The FBI discovered false bills were submitted for full doses of the medication when patients were subdosed, and for medication administered in the office by medical personnel when patients were actually self-injecting at home.
Co-defendant Virgil Opinion, 50, of Anaheim, who was Kooshian's assistant for more than 10 years, pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and in September was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay the restitution jointly with Kooshian.