Convictions in Pikesville pharmacy case raise questions about taxpayer-funded loan

A Baltimore County councilwoman says she wants county officials to recover a $300,000 taxpayer-funded loan to a Pikesville pharmacy whose owner faces federal jail time after pleading guilty to trafficking illegal cigarettes and selling unapproved drugs.

“I am hoping that we will try and recoup those losses,” said Vicki Almond, a Democrat who represents Pikesville. “That’s a substantial amount of money that I’m certain the county could use.”

But Baltimore County officials aren’t sure whether they’ll seek repayment of the loan to Health-Way Pharmacy, whose owner, Salim Yusufov, pleaded guilty to the charges in late January.

In fact, the company is in line for the county to forgive the “conditional loan” it granted to help finance a revitalization project involving Yusufov’s pharmacy on Reisterstown Road.

County officials said previously that they would wait for the court process to play out before determining whether criminal activity linked to the pharmacy would be grounds to seek a repayment.

The county’s attorneys are reviewing the loan now, said Fronda Cohen, a county spokeswoman. She wouldn’t comment further on how or when a decision would be made on whether to seek repayment of the loan.

In 2010, the county loaned $300,000 to 1114 Reisterstown Road LLC — a company formed by Yusufov’s brother, Timur Yusufov — to finance demolition of two buildings to make way for a 10,000-square-foot retail and office complex anchored by Health-Way.

The loan was a so-called conditional loan that would be forgiven if the borrower met two conditions: that the company put $1 million into the project and it was 75 percent leased by 2014. Health-Way met both conditions, Cohen said.

The Health-Way property is located within the Pikesville Commercial Revitalization District, where the county encourages redevelopment efforts. The Health-Way project features two-story brick storefronts along Reisterstown Road. The pharmacy anchors the property on the corner of Reisterstown Road and Sudbrook Lane.

Baltimore County’s conditional loans have come under fire from critics who say they are too generous because loan recipients don’t have to repay the money if they meet certain conditions, such as creating new jobs. Other companies that have benefited from such loans include developer Caves Valley Partners for its Towson City Center project and the Greene Turtle for an expansion of its Towson restaurant.

At Health-Way, federal prosecutors say, Salim Yusufov was one of the leaders of an Azerbaijani family crime operation dubbed “the Yusufov Organization,” which bought and sold contraband cigarettes in two states without paying taxes, dispensed illegal Russian and German prescription drugs, defrauded Medicaid and Medicare through bogus billing, and laundered the proceeds from their criminal enterprises through European banks.

Federal prosecutors said the Yusufov Organization trafficked more than $6.6 million worth of illicit cigarettes and drugs.

Eleven people were indicted on federal charges in December 2013; six have pleaded guilty.

Salim Yusufov, who is described in court documents as the pharmacy’s owner, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Jan. 29 to three charges: conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes, health care fraud, and receipt and delivery of misbranded drugs. His sentencing is scheduled for April.

Salim Yusufov is no longer involved with Health-Way, said his attorney, Geoff Garinther from the Venable law firm. Garinther declined to comment further.

Timur Yusufov pleaded guilty in federal court Feb. 5 to one count of aiding the receipt of cigarettes without paying federal taxes and was fined $50,000.

In addition to forming the company that received the Baltimore County loan, Timur Yusufov also is the resident agent, or legal point of contact, for the company that owns the land where the Health-Way project is located.

Timur Yusufov’s attorney declined to comment, and Health-Way remains in business.

According to state pharmacy records, the pharmacy is now licensed as Health Rite Pharmacy & Medical Supply. Health Rite’s pharmacy license was issued Jan. 27. Health Rite was incorporated as a Maryland business in December by Timur Yusufov and Milana Mulgan, according to state records.

The pharmacy’s signs and receipts remain in the name of Health-Way.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun

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