A gay doctor in Los Angeles has admitted to chiseling Medicare of thousands of dollars in an AIDS-related billing scam, reports The Associated Press.

Dr. George Steven Kooshian of La Quinta plead guilty February 24 to administering diluted doses of medicine to mostly gay patients suffering with HIV, AIDS or hepatitis and billing the federal government and private insurers the full cost of treatment.

The OC Weekly, a Village Voice Media alternative weekly that serves Orange County, first reported on Kooshian's illegal enterprise in a 2001 cover story written by R. Scott Moxley.

But when Moxley first began investigating Kooshian, a powerful gay philanthropist, his friends pushed back, calling the doctor a “concerned and caring physician” who had been victimized by “unethical and inappropriate” reporting in a full-page advertisement printed in gay weekly The Orange County-Long Beach Blade.

In 2005, however, the Weekly was vindicated when federal agents used the paper's reporting as the basis to open their own probe that resulted in criminal charges.

Kooshian has admitted to administering diluted treatments at four offices in Los Angeles and Orange County. But the Weekly alleges that Kooshian went further. It says he harmed the patients that sought his help by substituting vital medicine with an impotent brew of saline and liquid vitamins – at a cost of up to $9,000 per shot – and made a fortune off their untreated afflictions.

Federal agents believe he stole as much as $660,000 with this scheme.

Kooshian's assistant Virgil Opinion also faces criminal charges for his role in the scam. The pair have also admitted to billing for treatments that never occurred.

Ironically, his supporters were unwilling to believe that someone who had generously supported the gay community could have benefited from harming it. Kooshian's lawyer, William Kopeny, continues to insist his client did nothing to “impair the heath of any of his patients.”

Kooshian faces up to 50 years in prison and a $1.32 million fine at a May 11 sentencing hearing.