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Two longtime nursing home operators must stand trial to face a whistle-blower's allegations that the father and son took kickbacks related to the 2004 sale of a pharmacy company, a federal judge has ruled.

The ruling by District Judge John Tharp Jr. comes two weeks after the pharmaceutical giant Omnicare Inc. agreed to pay $17.2 million to the government to settle its part of the ongoing lawsuit, according to attorneys involved in the case.

The 6-year-old suit alleges that Omnicare paid Chicago nursing home operators Philip Esformes and his father, Morris Esformes, a kickback by significantly inflating the price Omnicare paid in 2004 for Total Pharmacy, which was partially owned by Philip Esformes.