LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles-area doctor has been found guilty of federal drug trafficking charges for illegally distributing the powerful painkillers, such as Vicodin and Norco, and laundering the proceeds of his drug dealing.
Dr. Andrew Sun, 78, of La Mirada, was found guilty late Thursday by a federal jury in Los Angeles.
Following a three-day trial, the jury convicted Sun of 17 felony counts, including three counts of money laundering. Sun was found of guilty distributing controlled substances outside of the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, including seven counts of distributing of hydrocodone (best known under the brand name Vicodin), four counts of distributing alprazolam (best known under the brand name Xanax), one count of distributing carisoprodol (best known under the brand name Soma), and two counts of distributing promethazine with codeine (known as the street as “purple drank” and “sizzurp”).
As a result of the guilty verdicts, Sun faces a statutory maximum sentence of 157 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Manuel Real on November 10.
The case presented by federal prosecutors, at its core, involved a doctor who “profited by prescribing addictive pain killers and other controlled substances to persons whom he believed were drug addicts, and thus that defendant acted without a lawful medical purpose,” according to a court document that outlines the government’s case.
Sun, who operated medical clinics in San Gabriel and East Los Angeles, issued more than 24,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and Sun generated well over $1 million in cash proceeds from 2009 through 2012, the evidence at trial showed.
Law enforcement authorities conducted a series of undercover operations at Sun’s clinic. During each operation, Sun failed to conduct any physical examination and he sold prescriptions for $150 in cash – even when he believed he was writing prescriptions for drug addicts.
The jury heard recordings of the undercover operations in which Sun told his “patients” what symptoms they should feel in an effort to justify prescriptions for potent painkillers. During one interaction, Sun offered to write a prescription for maximum strength Vicodin and told the “patient” that “you got to tell me if there’s any pain anywhere.” The “patient” asked, “What’s a legitimate one? What’s a good one?” Sun suggested “back pain,” and the “patient” responded, “There you go. Sounds good to me.”
The evidence also included Medical Board disciplinary filings against Sun showing that he was subject to a separate undercover investigation in 2004, during which he prescribed Vicodin to patients even though they said they didn’t feel pain. The Medical Board placed Sun’s license on probation, which included a requirement that Sun document and report all of his prescriptions for Vicodin and other controlled drugs. As shown at trial, Sun falsified the records that he submitted to the Medical Board by reporting diagnoses that were never mentioned during his meetings with patients.
Judge Real also scheduled an August 25 hearing, at which time the court will consider if Sun will be ordered to forfeit nearly $350,000 in drug proceeds that were previously seized by the government.
The investigation into Sun was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS – Criminal Investigation, the California Medical Board, the California Department of Health Care Services and the Monterey Park Police Department.