LOS ANGELES — A doctor from La Mirada who ran clinics in San Gabriel and East Los Angeles pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally prescribing painkillers and money laundering, officials announced.
Andrew Sun, 78, agreed to plead guilty to one count of distribution of hydrocodone and one count of money laundering, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The powerful painkiller hydrocodone is better known by it’s brand name, Vicodin.
He surrendered to authorities April 10 after being indicted on 24 charges related to drug distribution and money laundering.
Though he pleaded guilty only to money laundering and illegally prescribing hydrocodone, “(Sun) admits in his plea agreement that he also illegally prescribed and distributed other drugs, including those best known by the brand names Xanax and Soma,” Mrozek said.
The improper prescriptions issued to undercover investigators between 2011 and 2012, “outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose,” he said.
The doctor further admitted accepting $554,070 in cash payments for the drugs, which he deposited into a personal bank account, “for the purpose of disguising the source and nature of the funds,” according to Mrozek.
Under the plea arrangement, Sun agreed to forfeit $342,000 that was seized from his bank account in July of 2012, officials added. He also agreed to pay nearly $87,000 in restitution to the California Medical Board, which participated in the investigation along with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS, the California Department of Health Services and the Monterey Park Police Department.
Sun’s medical license was suspended in 2013, according to a California Department of Consumer Affairs database.
SOUTH EL MONTE — Deputies seized more than two pounds of what was believed to be cocaine and arrested three men, including one who ran, after pulling over a car in South El Monte late Friday, authorities said.
The incident unfolded about 10 p.m. when deputies stopped a car in the area of Peck Road and Michael Hunt Drive, Sgt. A. Ben-Sahile of the sheriff’s Temple Station said.
One of the three men inside the car ran from the vehicle, initiating a search that lasted about an hour before the fleeing suspect was found hiding under a car in a nearby driveway, officials said.
The two other men who remained in the car were also arrested after deputies discovered a kilogram of a substance suspected to be cocaine — with a street value of about $30,000 — in the trunk of the car, Ben-Sahile said. The substance was to be tested to confirm its composition.
Detectives withheld the suspects’ identities Saturday as they continued their investigation, he said. They were described as Northern California men ranging from 30 to 50 years old.
Sheriff’s officials raided an Altadena home Thursday, arresting four people and seizing 50 marijuana plants, methamphetamine, two guns and suspected stolen property, authorities said Friday.
Arrested were Christopher Mesa, 26, on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale; Stephen Mesa, 36, on suspicion of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, possession of methamphetamine and receiving stolen property; Jeffrey Ortiz, 29, on suspicion of receiving stolen property, as well as on outstanding narcotics warrants; and Lucero Rodriguez, 23, on suspicion of receiving stolen property and possession of marijuana, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Members of the sheriff’s Altadena Station’s Summer Violent Crime Enforcement Program and the Sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau carried out a search warrant about 9 p.m. Thursday at a home in the 500 block of West Palm Street, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
“Upon execution of the search warrant, detectives recovered more than 50 live marijuana plants being grown inside the house by an elaborate artificial growing system,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “Detectives also recovered two firearms, methamphetamine, and a large amount of items believed to be stolen, such as laptops and other electronic equipment.”
The four suspects were scheduled to appear for arraignment Monday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Pasadena Branch.
PASADENA >> Police arrested a probationer Saturday in a Pasadena parking lot after finding marijuana, methamphetamine and documents believed to have been stolen from at least a dozen people in his car, officials said.
Timothy Jerome Fisher, 33, of Pasadena was arrested on suspicion of drug possession as detectives continued investigating how he came to obtain the checks, bank cards and other documents of a dozen or more other people, according to Pasadena police and Los Angeles County booking records.
He was taken into custody just after 2:30 p.m. in the larking lot of CVS Pharmacy, 900 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
Officers were on foot patrol in the lot when they spotted Fisher sitting in a car parked behind the store, Clawson said.
“They noticed marijuana in the driver’s door panel,” he said. “Upon a further consent search of the car, officers found two grams of methamphetamine and paraphernalia.”
Also found in the car were the documents in the names of other people, Clawson said. Police had contacted two of the potential victims Sunday, and both reported have their documents stolen in car break-ins.
The investigation was ongoing.
Booking records indicated Fisher was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance.
ALHAMBRA — Police arrested a 63-year-old Alhambra woman Thursday and seized 70 balloons filled with heroin, authorities said.
Lorie Kell was arrested just after 5 p.m. at an apartment in the 900 block of South Marguerita Avenue, Alhambra police Sgt. Esther Rodriguez said. She was booked on suspicion of possession of narcotics for sales.
The arrest was the result of a search warrant carried out by detectives the Alhambra Police Department’s Special Enforcement Unit, police officials said in a written statement posted on the department’s Facebook page. Further details regarding the investigation were not available Friday, nor was the estimated street value of the seized drugs.
“Heroin is a very addictive drug that causes users to have to use daily,” according to the police statement. “Users often times spend over $100 a day on the drug and get a lot of their money from stealing and pawning merchandise.”
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Kell was released from jail Thursday night pending her initial court appearance after posting $30,000 bail.
WEST COVINA >> A man believed to be high on bath salts and methamphetamine threatened passers-by with a gas can, doused himself in the flammable liquid and bit a police officer before finally being wrestled into custody by police early Saturday, authorities said.
Juan Carlos Urrutia, 24, of West Covina was arrested in connection with the incident, according to West Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The bizarre series of event unfolded shorty after 7 a.m. in the area of West Covina Parkway and Glendora Avenue.
Police received numerous calls of a man — later identified as Urrutia — of about 19 years old walking in the middle of the street with a gasoline can in-hand, “threatening motorists to light them on fire,” West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
Callers further reported that the man had doused a bush, as well as himself, in gasoline, and had been seen carrying both a lighter and a crowbar, the lieutenant said.
Officers arrived and confronted Urrutia, who was still carrying the gas can, as well as some jumper cables and paper towels that had been soaked in gasoline, Patton said. He appeared highly intoxicated.
“He disobeyed call commands,” Patton said.
But because the man was soaked in flammable liquid, officer were unable to use a Taser to subdue Urrutua for fear of igniting a fire, police said. So police wrestled him into custody.
“It took multiple officers to get this guy into custody,” Patton said.
Urrutia bit an officer in the arm during the struggle, breaking the skin and causing a “significant injury,” Patton said. The officer was treated and released at a hospital.
The suspect told officials that he had consumed bath salts and methamphetamine, he said. He was taken to a hospital for examination.
Bath salts is a term used to describe a family of synthetic stimulants often sold as items such as bath salt, labeled not for human consumption.
After being examined at a hospital, Urrutia was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, resisting arrest and being under the influence of drugs, police said.
According to county booking records, Urrutia was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his arraignment, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
WHITTIER — Whittier police will join the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation Saturday in collecting unwanted prescription drugs, officials said.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., residents are invited to bring unused, unwanted, expired and potentially dangerous prescription drugs to Whittier City Hall, 13230 Penn Street, for safe disposal, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked,” according to the police statement. Syringes will not be accepted at the event.
“This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue,” according to the police statement. “Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.”
Simply throwing medications in the trash or flushing them down the toilet can pose safety and environmental hazards as well, officials added.
For more information, the Whittier Police Department can be reached at 562-567-9200.
LOS ANGELES >> A doctor from La Mirada surrendered to federal authorities Thursday after being indicted on charges of illegally prescribing powerful painkillers and other drugs and laundering the proceeds from the illicit sales, authorities said.
Andrew Sun, 78, turned himself in at the United States Courthouse in Los Angeles, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. A federal grand jury returned an indictment on March 18 charging him with 24 counts of illegally prescribing controlled substances, as well as four counts of money laundering.
Sun operated medical clinics in San Gabriel and East Los Angeles, according to federal officials.
“Sun prescribed drugs, including hydrocodone, to undercover agents on 13 separate occasions, each time in exchange for $150 cash,” Mrozek said.
The prescriptions were written between July of 2011 and April of 2012, according to the federal indictment.
In once instance, “Sun encouraged an undercover agent to provide a fraudulent justification for the ‘maximum’ allowable number of extra-strength Vicodin pills,” Mrozek said.
Other drugs allegedly prescribed illegally by the doctor include Xanax, Soma, Valium and cough syrup containing promethazine and codeine.
The indictment alleges that Sun prescribed the powerful drugs, “while acting and intending to act outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.”
Investigators noted that between mid-2009 and mid-2010, Sun issued nearly 5,000 prescriptions for controlled substances.
In addition to illegally selling drugs, “The indictment also charges Sun with four counts of laundering the proceeds generated by his illegal prescriptions,” Mrozek said. “The indictment charges Sun with laundering cash on four specific occasions when he deposited thousands of dollars in cash on dates that undercover agents met with him and received prescriptions,” Mrozek said.
The indictment lists $16,950 in allegedly laundered funds, which were deposited between July of 2011 and March of 2012.
While looking into the doctor, IRS investigators determined Sun and his wife controlled 44 bank accounts, and Sun had deposited more than $1.1 million in cash into the accounts between 2008 and 2012, according to the DOJ officials.
After pleading not guilty to all 28 charges, Sun was released from custody on a $500,000 bond, Mrozek said. A trial date was scheduled for May 27.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS, the California Medical Board, the California Department of Health Care Services and the Monterey Park Police Department took part in the investigation.
Sun’s medical license has been suspended since late 2013 and he is barred from practicing medicine, according to a California Department of Consumer Affairs database.
He was first licensed to practice medicine in 1967 after graduating Harvard Medical School in 1966, records show.
If convicted as charged, Sun faces up to 248 years in federal prison, officials said.
PICO RIVERA >> A man with a handgun robbed a Pico Rivera pharmacy Wednesday of prescription-strength cough syrup commonly used in the street drug known as “purple drank,” officials said.
The robbery took place about 2:40 p.m. at the Rivera Pharmacy, 9253 Telegraph Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Dodson said.
The robber was described as a white man with a bandana covering his face who carried a handgun, the sergeant said. He brandished the weapon and demanded cough syrup.
Initial reports indicated the cough syrup contained promethazine and codeine. The same type of cough syrup is commonly mixed with soda and candy to create the illicit intoxicant known as “purple drank,”
“Promethazine is commonly known on the street as “purple drank,” “syrup,” “purple liquid” and “lean,” with the latter name coming from the abuser’s difficulty in standing up straight,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrations officials said in a 2011 statement. “Promethazine is a central nervous system depressant which can cause death if it is combined with alcohol.”
EL MONTE — El Monte police will be collecting residents’ unwanted prescription medications this month for safe disposal, officials said.
Unused or expired drugs can be turned in from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 in the rear parking lot of the El Monte Police Department, 11333 Valley Boulevard, El Monte police officials said in a written statement.
For more information, El Monte police can be reached at 626-580-2100.