Bail was set at $80,000 Wednesday for an Orange County doctor accused 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.
Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, of Tustin, who owns Irvine Village Urgent Care at 15435 Jeffrey Road, was arrested Tuesday 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.
During an appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon in Santa Ana, Pham waived his right to a preliminary hearing, with prosecutors indicating they intend to present the case to a grand jury and have Pham indicted.
A post-indictment arraignment was tentatively set for Jan. 22.
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 go to the grand jury.
Prosecutors 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.
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. Twelve people were killed in the Nov. 7 massacre inside a Thousand Oaks bar before Long fatally shot himself.
In addition to allegedly writing prescriptions for patients he never examined, prosecutors said Pham 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 to 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.
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.