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Agents raid pharmacy in probe of Jackson's death

Investigators look for evidence of improper dispensing of controlled substances, a category that doesn't cover the anesthetic propofol.

August 22, 2009|Harriet Ryan

Federal agents investigating Michael Jackson's death seized prescription drug records Friday from a Beverly Hills pharmacy favored by the pop star.

Nine Drug Enforcement Administration agents armed with a search warrant spent five hours sifting through records at Mickey Fine Pharmacy for "evidence of improper dispensing of controlled substances," Special Agent Jose Martinez said.

Jackson was known to have prescriptions filled at the Roxbury Drive store, running up a $101,000 drug bill in 2005, which the pharmacy collected after filing a lawsuit.

The DEA search, part of a multi-agency investigation into Jackson's June 25 death, suggested that detectives are looking beyond Jackson's personal physician and the role of the anesthetic propofol. Detectives have been considering manslaughter charges against Dr. Conrad Murray, but law enforcement sources have told The Times that prescription medications -- other than the propofol they said Murray administered -- were found in Jackson's system.

The search warrant specified controlled substances, a category that doesn't include propofol, and Murray's attorney has indicated that the doctor did not prescribe any other drugs. Martinez declined to say whether the pharmacy was the target of a criminal investigation, but noted that only pharmacies, and not doctors, can be investigated for improperly dispensing medication.

A man answering the phone at the pharmacy hung up on a reporter and an attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

The search came as the probate judge overseeing Jackson's affairs approved a traveling exhibit of Jackson memorabilia.

Lawyers for Jackson's mother, Katherine, had criticized the deal negotiated by temporary administrators of the estate as a "fire sale" that didn't do enough to protect the singer's legacy. But after listening to witnesses involved in the deal between concert promoter AEG Live and the estate, as well as outside experts, Judge Mitchell Beckloff called those arguments "hyperbole."

"There is no question in my mind that this is in the best interest of the estate," he said.

The exhibit was part of a larger contract that settles Jackson's debt to AEG Live for backing the performer's planned comeback concerts as well as addressing the costs the promoter paid for the entertainer's memorial service. Attorneys for AEG declined to discuss the specific terms of those portions of the contract.

The exhibit will travel to three cities, beginning in October with a four- to six-month stop at London's O2, an entertainment complex that was to be the site of Jackson's comeback concerts, said John Norman, the president of AEG subsidiary Arts and Exhibitions International. The other two stops and the contents of the exhibit have yet to be worked out, he said.

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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