SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – An Irvine doctor charged with knowingly prescribing medication to drug addicts, leading to at least five overdose deaths — and whose prescriptions may have been found in the possession of the gunman in the Thousand Oaks massacre — was released on bail Wednesday and will be allowed to continue to see patients.
Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, of Tustin, was arrested by DEA agents Tuesday morning on two counts of illegally distributing oxycodone. Pham owns Irvine Village Urgent Care, located at 2500 Alton Pkwy.
Pham appeared in U.S. district court in Santa Ana Wednesday afternoon, where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing, with prosecutors indicating they intend to present the case to a grand jury and have Pham indicted.
He was released after posting $80,000 bail Wednesday. A post-indictment arraignment was tentatively set for Jan. 22.
U.S. District Court Judge Autumn Spaeth ordered Pham to stop treating patients to whom he has prescribed opioids in the past, and refer them to another physician. Pham was also barred from prescribing opioids, but can still practice medicine and prescribe other medications, such as antibiotics.
CBS2 was unable to immediately find any specific details on those restrictions on the website for the Medical Board of California.
For several years, Pham sold large amounts of prescription drugs to patients he knew were addicts, and without examining them, and was aware they would also turn around and sell the drugs on the black market, the Justice Department reports.
Between 2014 and 2017, at least five people who filled prescriptions from Pham died of overdoses, according to a criminal complaint.
Following the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill on Nov. 7, in which 28-year-old Ian David Long opened fire in the crowded Thousand Oaks bar, killing 12 people, Pham sent a text message in which he “expressed concern” that Long may have been in possession of drugs which Pham had prescribed to someone else.
“One of my patient (sic) just told me that the thousand oak shooter, ian david long, had my prescription bottles that belong to some (sic) else,” Pham wrote in a text obtained by DEA investigators. “I never saw Mr. Long before, so I dont (sic) know the implication of this information.”
As he walked to his car with his wife by his side Wednesday after being released from jail, he was asked by CBS2 reporter Stacey Butler if he had a message for the victims of the Borderline massacre and their families.
“Did you want to say you’re sorry to the people who died, to the families?” Butler asked. “There are families who are watching this who’d like to know.”
“I’m sorry they passed,” Pham responded.
Furthermore, the complaint alleges that one of Pham’s patients was 25-year-old Stephen Taylor Scarpa, who told authorities he was under the influence of drugs prescribed by Pham when, on Nov. 3, he allegedly struck and killed a Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue captain who was out biking. Several prescription bottles with Pham’s name were found in Scarpa’s car following the crash, the complaint reads.
Scarpa is charged with murder in the death of 43-year-old Mike Kreza, a husband and father of three.
Investigators discovered at least 84 patients immediately had their prescriptions filled after simply sending Pham a text message request, documents read. Those drugs included Adderall, oxycodone, tramadol, suboxone, norco, soma, alprazolam and hydrocodone bitartrate-acetaminophen.
More than five years ago, a CVS pharmacy in Irvine stopped filling prescriptions from Pham over concerns about the number of opioid pills he was prescribing, the Justice Department said.
Between 2013 and September 2018, Pham deposited more than $5 million, most of it cash, into his personal bank accounts, the complaint states. He also deposited another $1.7 million into a business bank account over that same time.
The DEA has been investigating Pham since 2015, and conducted two undercover operations on him this past summer.
If convicted as charged, he faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)