“I cannot imagine what you have gone through,” the doctor told the families at her sentencing in a low voice. “I have been, and will forever be, praying for all of you.” (Dr Lisa Tseng)
It was one year ago when a Los Angeles-area physician was sentenced to 30 years in prison. She had been convicted of Murder of 3 – out of at least 8 – of her patients who fatally overdosed from medication she prescribed to them.
In October 2015, Doctor Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng was found guilty of Murder for the deaths of Joey Rovero, age 21; Vu Nguyen, age 28, and Steven Ogle, age 25. These were merely some of her patients who had overdosed and died as a direct result if improper and dangerous volumes of drugs she would dole out on an hourly basis.
Tseng is reportedly the first American physician to be convicted of murder for recklessly prescribing drugs, according to L.A. County District Attorney John Niedermann. But hundreds of other doctor drug-dealers have been locked up over the past 20 years, with assuredly many more to come. The sheer number of corrupt physicians who have turned into criminal “pill mill” operators is astounding.
“This doctor repeatedly ignored warning signs even after several patients died, as she built a new medical clinic in Rowland Heights with the money she made from them, earning $5,000,000 in one three-year period. One patient even overdosed in her office and had to be revived.” (L.A. County District Attorney)
Tseng’s sentencing came as the United States finds itself in the grip of a nasty prescription drug abuse epidemic. The situation was an oft-mentioned theme by presidential candidates during the months prior to the election.
Both law enforcement officials and medical investigators point the finger at criminal and reckless opiate prescriptions as the root of the heroin scourge.
Consider what DEA, bad-doctor-case investigator Mark Nomady has to say, after he so frequently witnessed pill abusers whose drugs were supplied by doctors, end up dead with needles still in their arms.
“You can draw a straight line from pharmaceutical opiates to shooting heroin. At some point they can’t afford the pills, or their doctor gets arrested, and there they are left with a habit they can’t control.”
Prosecutor Niedermann told the court that the Murder charges against Tseng were well-deserved, because she had already been warned by law enforcement, that her patients were overdosing and dying, a year before she was arrested. Nonetheless, she continued selling drugs to drug users.
In at least one instance, the doctor was contacted by the L.A. County Coroner and told that her patients were dying all over town. She disregarded the deaths as “not my problem”.
Nomady, the retired DEA agent, investigated many bad-doctor cases in Southern California until he finally retired.
“One bad doctor can turn a whole town upside down,” he said.
Tseng’s case is actually the perfect example of a drug-pushing, pill-mill operator whose goal was profit – not patient care. She was indeed what law enforcement calls a “dirty doctor” turning patients into long-term addicts who would keep coming back time after time until they, well, died.
Tseng preferred pushing drugs to younger people who paid cash. She performed no meaningful examinations and recorded few notes. When family members would call her office and beg her not to prescribe any more narcotics, she ignored them and continued her wealth-building scheme.
At her sentencing, the judge told the doctor that she had operated a reckless “assembly line” clinic that generated thousands of dollars each day. He pointed out that she was still blaming others for the ugly case, even after she was arrested.
Tseng, who has 2 children, ages 12 and 9, may spend the rest of her life in prison. She will be eligible for parole at age 77.
Time to focus on ‘pill mill’ criminals
Over the past 5 years DEA agents have brought focus on “pill mills” nationwide. In 2014, law enforcement in New York arrested 2 dozen people – many of them physicians – for flooding the streets with 5,000,000 oxycodone pills.
Not long after, the U.S. Justice Department announced the “largest pharmaceutical-related takedown in the DEA’s history,” including 24 doctors and pharmacists, in a drug distribution conspiracy of addictive drugs in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
In 2013, another Southern California MD, Alvin Yee, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for drug-pushing out of Orange County Starbucks coffee shops, no less.
In December of last year in Santa Barbara, Doctor Julio Diaz was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for catering to drug addicts who paid him cash for prescriptions. Called “the Candy Man” by some of his patients, “Diaz was seen as a lethal danger by other physicians in town. They kept records that documented Paramedic transports of his patients to emergency rooms. This particular doctor drug-pusher is believed to have been involved in 20 patient deaths, although like so many other lab coat loons, he was never convicted of Murder.
In January of last year, law enforcement raided the office of a psychiatrist in Atlanta, after 12 of his patients died of prescription drug overdoses. The doctor was charged with prescribing addictive narcotics to people with no medical need.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Luotto Wolf, who has also prosecuted bad doctors, says she was stunned by the number of patients who turn to heroin, once they get hooked on prescription pills.
“These are people who never in a million years thought they’d be injecting themselves,” she said.
Niedermann, the L.A. County Deputy District Attorney, said he knew nothing about prescription drug scams before being assigned to his first case in 2008. In that case, he won a conviction against physician who was pulling in $1,000,000 a year in cash, by catering to addicts. That doctor was sentenced to 5 years in state prison.
Since then, in just the L.A.-area alone, Niedermann has gotten convictions against 7 more doctors for illegal drug pushing.
And folks, the beat goes on.
Here’s another view: