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Mar 13, 11:09 PM EDT

San Diego doctor arrested in alleged opioid 'pill mill'

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A 73-year-old San Diego doctor and seven other people have been arrested on suspicion of distributing painkillers in what federal prosecutors call a "pill mill" scheme.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Tuesday that Dr. Egisto Salerno prescribed hydrocodone without a legitimate medical reason. The opioid is also known by the brand names Vicodin, Norco and Lortab.

Prosecutors say the other defendants recruited homeless people to pose as patients to visit Salerno. The phony patients were paid to turn over the pills to the defendants. Salerno allegedly received a fee for each prescription he wrote.

Officials say in some instances, the prescriptions were written for people who were dead or in jail.

It wasn't immediately known if Salerno has an attorney.

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