From the daily archives: Monday, March 15, 2010

Tom Topuzes, president and chief executive officer of Thomas Topuzes & Associates, LLC, in El Centro, has been elected to membership in the San Diego Chapter of Lambda Alpha International, an Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics.

Founded in the1930s, the organization provides a catalyst for the advancement of land economics by facilitating the interaction of members who have distinguished themselves in their professions, their communities and through academic achievements. Lambda Alpha International provides a forum for distinguished practitioners and scholars to discuss, debate, and solve dilemmas involving use of land resources.

Topuzes was nominated to join the San Diego Chapter of Lambda Alpha International, one of 22 chapters of the organization throughout the world. Lambda Alpha International has more than 2,000 members from diverse professional backgrounds and perspectives in the non-political, not-for-profit professional organization. To qualify for membership, individuals must have:

  • achieved professional distinction, with a minimum of 10 years of work experience;
  • made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of land economics; and
  • distinguished themselves in the community through public service.

Topuzes brings to his membership extensive experience in governmental service, banking, business and community involvement. His business consulting firm assists with strategic planning, business management, real estate development, international trade, board governance and banking.

Currently, Topuzes is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Community Valley Bank in El Centro. He is a founder and organizer of the institution.  His prior experience includes executive management positions with Valley Independent Bank in El Centro, First International Bank in Chula Vista and Great American Savings Bank in San Diego.

As Regional Administrator of Region IX of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Topuzes’ areas of responsibility included California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. He also served as Deputy Director and Counsel for the California Governor’s Office, Office of Economic Opportunity.

Topuzes currently serves on the Board of Trustees of National University System, the Board of Directors of CDC Small Business Finance Corporation, Boy Scouts of America, San Diego-Imperial County Council, and is a member of the San Diego & Imperial District Export Council and US/Mexico Border District Export Council.  He is the Co-Chair of the Cali Baja Bi-National Mega-Region Initiative.

He serves on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Imperial Valley and the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. (IVEDC). He chairs the IVEDC International Committee and was recently named Volunteer of the Year by IVEDC. He is past president and member of the Kiwanis Club of El Centro.

A member of the California State Bar, Topuzes holds a Juris Doctor degree, a BA degree in finance, economics and psychology and an AA degree in business management. He also served in the United States Air Force.

 

Los Angeles-In an ongoing crackdown on prescription-drug fraud and abuse, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that his office is investigating an “illegal and massive prescription-drug ring” linked to the death of Corey Haim.

An unauthorized prescription under the former child star’s name was found during an ongoing investigation of fraudulent prescription-drug pads ordered from a vendor in San Diego.

“Corey Haim’s death is yet another tragedy linked to the growing problem of prescription-drug abuse,” Attorney General Brown said. “This problem is increasingly linked to criminal organizations, like the illegal and massive prescription-drug ring under investigation. It’s a serious public health problem.”

The prescription-drug ring under investigation operates by ordering prescription-drug pads from authorized vendors using stolen doctor identities. The pads are then either sold on the street to prescription-drug addicts or to individuals who are paid to fill the prescription and then sell the drugs on the underground market. The doctor whose name is printed on the form is usually unaware that his or her identity has been stolen for this purpose.

The investigation has thus far uncovered more than 4,500 to 5,000 fraudulent prescriptions linked to the fraud ring in Southern California.

The San Diego Regional Pharmaceutical Narcotic Enforcement Team (RxNET) is conducting the investigation. RxNET is a cooperative effort of the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement; Department of Health Care Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. RxNET also works in conjunction with other state, federal and local law enforcement agencies.

Prescription-drug abuse is a growing problem. Brown’s office has investigated and filed charges in more than 200 cases-against both physicians who have abused their trust and patients who go from doctor to doctor in search of drugs.

In February 2009, Brown filed charges against Dr. Lisa Barden of Rancho Cucamonga, who stole the identities of her patients to obtain highly addictive painkillers. The San Bernardino County District Attorney is prosecuting the case.

In April 2009, Brown’s office arrested five college-age individuals who conspired to fraudulently obtain thousands of prescription drugs. The San Diego County District Attorney is now prosecuting the case.

In addition to costing the state millions of dollars each year, prescription-drug abuse can have serious public safety consequences, as many of the top abusers hold down regular jobs including truck drivers, transit operators and medical practitioners.

California is at the forefront of technology that makes it more difficult for criminals to operate prescription-drug rings. Brown’s office has introduced significant technology upgrades to the state’s prescription-monitoring program, known as CURES, by creating an accessible, online database. The database is a critical tool in assisting law enforcement in investigating these types of crimes.

For more information on the California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and California’s prescription-drug monitoring system visit: http://ag.ca.gov/bne/CURES.php

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