A doctor who owns an Irvine urgent care facility was arrested Tuesday on charges of illegally distributing opioids, including some prescribed to a man charged with running over and killing an off-duty Costa Mesa fire captain riding his bicycle in Mission Viejo.
Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, of Tustin, who owns Irvine Village Urgent Care at 15435 Jeffrey Road, was arrested on two counts of illegally distributing oxycodone, according to Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Federal authorities said Pham would prescribe drugs to people he never examined, and five people who received prescriptions from Pham died of overdoses.
Federal authorities also contend that Pham sent a text message expressing concern that Borderline Bar and Grill mass killer David Ian Long had prescription drugs in his possession that Pham had prescribed for someone else. Long killed 12 people inside the Thousand Oaks bar on Nov. 7, including a Ventura County sheriff’s sergeant, before fatally shooting himself.
Pham appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon in Santa Ana, but U.S. District Judge Autumn Spaeth rescheduled his initial appearance until Wednesday so the doctor can fill out a financial form to determine if he qualifies for a public defender.
Spaeth ordered Pham to remain in jail overnight. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagel asked Spaeth to order the defendant to provide access to his phone for investigators, who accidentally let the phone’s security settings block their access to it. That issue will be considered Wednesday.
Pham faces up to 40 years in prison if he is convicted of the current charges. But Sagel said prosecutors will likely add charges when they seek an indictment from a grand jury.
Prosecutors contend that in addition to writing prescriptions for patients he never examined, he allegedly sold prescriptions to drug addicts or to dealers selling the narcotics on the black market.
Prosecutors allege Pham wrote “an extremely high amount” of prescriptions over three years, so much so that a CVS pharmacy in Irvine stopped taking prescriptions from Pham more than five years ago.
Over the summer, Drug Enforcement Administration agents conducted two undercover operations targeting Pham in which he allegedly steered the agents two a pharmacy in Irvine that filled many of his prescriptions, Mrozek said.
Five people who obtained drugs from Pham from 2014 through last year overdosed and died, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also contend that Stephen Taylor Scarpa, 25, of Mission Viejo, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 44-year-old Costa Mesa fire Capt. Mike Kreza, was high on drugs from Pham at the time of the deadly collision on Nov. 3. Prescription bottles with Pham’s name on them were found in Scarpa’s van after the collision, according to a DEA affidavit.
Pham charged between $100 and $150 per office visit, Mrozek said. The doctor deposited over $5 million, mostly in cash, into his and his wife’s bank accounts between 2013 and September of this year, according to the DEA affidavit. He also deposited about $1.7 million into a business bank account that investigators suspect came from insurance payments, Mrozek said.