LOS ANGELES >> A jury Friday convicted a Rowland Heights doctor of three counts of murder for the deaths of three patients who overdosed on drugs she prescribed following a two-month trial.
The case is the first time a medical doctor has been convicted of murder in the United States for overprescribing drugs, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
Hsiu-Ying “Lisa’ Tseng, a 45-year-old doctor of osteopathic medicine and Walnut resident, operated the Advanced Care AAA Medical clinic in Rowland Heights along with her husband.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury also convicted her of 20 counts of unlawfully prescribing prescription drugs, but acquitted her on a single charge of prescribing drugs fraudulently, Los Angels County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
“This verdict sends a strong message to individuals in the medical community who put patients at risk for their own financial gain,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “In this case, the doctor stole the lives of three young people in her misguided effort to get rich quick.”
The verdict followed more than a week of jury deliberation.
Investigators arrested Tseng in March of 2012. She has remained in custody in lieu of $3 million throughout the legal process.
The second-degree murder charges stemmed from the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, of Lake Forest, on March 2, 2009; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert, on April 9, 2009; and Joseph Rovero III, 21, of San Ramon, on Dec. 18, 2009.
Prosecutors, who described Tseng as a “Dr. Feelgood,” argued she prescribed the three young men powerful drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and Xanax, without valid medical reasons.
She has a sentencing hearing on Dec. 14, where she faces up to 45 years to life in state prison.
“This is the most severe penalty we have ever gotten ona doctor who illegally overprescribed drugs to patients,” Lacey said.
Tseng’s defense attorney, Tracy Green of Los Angeles-based Green & Associates, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The ground-breaking case was prosecuted by deputy district attorneys John Niederman and Grace Rai of the D.A.’s Major Narcotics Division.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began looking into Tseng and her practice in 2008 after pharmacies noted high numbers of Tseng’s patients showing up to fill prescriptions for painkillers, prosecutors said. Investigators made undercover visits to the office, and conducted a search of it, in 2010.
Prior to the criminal case, Tseng had already settled civil lawsuits with the families of five other men who overdosed on drugs she proscribed. Testimony revealed at least 12 of Tseng’s patients in all have died of prescription drug overdoses.
Tseng denied the charges, and her trial began in late August.
Tseng received her medical license in 1997, according to Osteopathic Medical Board of California records.
She opened her Rowland Heights clinic in 2005, officials said.
“During the time-frame when nine of her patients died in less than three years, Tseng took in $5 million from her clinic and continued dispensing potent and addictive drugs unabated,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Tseng often no medical records while prescribing the drugs, officials said.
“In many instances, she faked medical records when authorities began investigating,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Tseng surrendered her license in March of 2012 and is not permitted to practice medicine, records show. Her DEA registration was revoked in 2010 amid the ongoing investigation.
COVINA >> Police jailed a San Gabriel man found passed out behind the wheel of his car in Covina early Thursday after discovering nearly a quarter-pound of methamphetamine, along with some heroin, in his vehicle, officials said.
Officers first responded about 4:15 a.m. to reports of a solo-car crash in the 900 block of North Grandview Avenue, Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said.
“When officers got there, the driver-side tires were up on the sidewalk with the passenger side tires on the street,” the lieutenant said. “The vehicle was running with the suspect asleep behind the wheel.”
Police woke the suspect, who was believed to be under the influence of heroin and appeared “lethargic and confused,” Doonan said.
Upon searching the 2002 Lexus, he said, police found 100 grams of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of more than $1,500, as well as a vial of heroin and a pipe and a “shaved” car key often used to steal or burglarize cars.
Binh Chi Ly, 33, of San Gabriel, was booked on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine for sales, possession of heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a burglary tool, according to Covina police and Los Angeles County booking records.
He was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
PHOTOS: [TOP] – Binh Ly, 33, of San Gabriel. [BELOW] – 100 grams of seized methampetamine
WHITTIER >> Police jailed a man and woman on suspicion of robbery and drug possession after finding them driving around Whittier with ski masks, a fake gun, latex gloves and methamphetamine early Wednesday, officials said.
An officer noticed a “suspicious” SUV parked about 1:50 a.m. outside a Rite Aid Pharmacy store at the Quad at Whittier, at Painter Avenue and Whittier Boulevard, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The officer waited until a man and woman emerged from the store and drove off in the SUV, then stopped the vehicle nearby for a traffic violation, the lieutenant said.
Inside the SUV, police found a replica Colt pistol, ski masks, latex gloves and about three grams of methamphetamine, Ellis said.
Police suspect the pair had either just committed, or was about to commit, a robbery, Ellis said.
The 33-year-old man and 29-year-old woman were jailed on suspicion of robbery and drug possession, he said. Their names were withheld Wednesday as detectives continued their investigation.
GLENDORA >> Police used a newly-obtained anti-overdose nasal spray for the first time Saturday to revive a man overdosing on heroin in Glendora, officials said.
The incident unfolded shortly before 11 p.m. at a home in the 800 block of East Route 66, Glendora police Lt. Rob Lamborghini said in a written statement.
Officers responding to a report that a 31-year-old man had overdosed on heroin found the patient unconscious in an bathroom “in respiratory distress,” Lamborghini said.
“His breathing was very shallow and slow and his pulse was weak and slow,” he said. “Other signs of an opiate overdose were observed by the officers, two of whom are trained emergency medical technicians.”
The officers administered a dose of nasal naloxone, or Narcan, just as paramedics arrived at the scene.
The drug, which was first obtained by the department six months ago, is used to help reverse respiratory arrest caused by opiate drugs such as heroin or prescription painkillers.
“Within a minute and a half he was breathing more normally and his pulse rate rose significantly. He was treated by paramedics and was taken to Glendora Community Hospital where he regained consciousness and fully recovered,” Lamborghini said.
The Glendora Police Department became the first Los Angeles County law enforcement agency to be authorized to use the anti-overdose drug — known as nasal nolaxone, or Narcan — in April.
Five Glendora police officers and one community service officer, who are also trained as EMTs, carry the spray, officials said. They also carry oxygen, which, in conjunction with Narcan, can be very effective in reviving overdose victims.
The program was introduces after police noticed a significant increase in both incidents of heroin possession and overdoses in recent years, officials said at the time.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have noted a national “epidemic” of increasing heroin use nationwide.
“Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, and more than 8,200 people died in 2013,” according to a CDC statement.
Glendora police have long been at the forefront of marrying new medical technology with law enforcement duties.
In 1997, the department first in Southern California to issue portable defibrillators to all of its officers, officials said.
PHOTO: A dose of nasal naloxone, or Narcan, phorographed on Sept. 2, 2015. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)
SAN DIMAS >> A report of a “suspicious person” in a residential San Dimas neighborhood Friday led deputies to arrest an alleged methamphetamine dealer with a loaded handgun, officials said.
Paul Matthew Moreno, 43, of Covina was arrested on suspicion of possession of meth for sales and possession of a loaded, concealed handgun in public, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
A witness called police about 10:35 a.m. to report a “suspicious person in a vehicle” in the 1300 block of Calle Caballero, sheriff’s Lt. Tonya Edwards said.
Deputies confronted the man — later identified as Moreno — and found him in possession of a loaded revolver, as well as a “large quantity” of meth separated into multiple baggies, Edwards said. He was arrested without a struggle. The exact amount of drugs recovered was not available Friday afternoon.
Moreno was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his arraignment hearing, scheduled Wednesday in Pomona Superior Court.
PHOTO of seized handgun courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
PASADENA : Police jailed two Pasadena man — including one already on parole for burglary — who they say through more than an ounce of methamphetamine from their car during a short chase Thursday afternoon.
Manuel Navarro, 33, and Francisco Ricardo Tafolla, were arrested about 4:30 p.m., according to Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. Police recovered 29 grams of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $500.
Officers tried to pull over a Nissan van at Cypress Avenue and Villa Street for a traffic violation, but the van failed to pull over and sped away, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
“The van ran a stop sign on Villa and turned south on Lincoln (Avenue), and when they did so, the driver threw methamphetamine out the window,” Mercado said. Police recovered the drugs.
The driver — Navarro — turned onto Eureka Street and pulled over, the lieutenant said. Both men surrendered.
Police arrested Navarro and Tafolla on suspicion of transportation of methamphetamine and evading police, Mercado said.
Navarro was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, records show. Tafolla, who is on parole following an April burglary conviction, was being held without bail.
A Baldwin Park man Wednesday admitted participating in a San Gabriel Valley-based drug distribution conspiracy Wednesday and admitted fatally shooting a man in La Puente in 2006, federal officials said.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, 39, faces up to 30 years in federal prison when he returns to court in Los Angeles for sentencing Jan. 25, U.S. Assistant Attorney Mack Jenkins said. But under the plea deal, the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend a prison term of 18 to 24 years to the presiding judge.
Garcia pleaded guilty to participating in a drug distribution conspiracy which included murder, Jenkins explained.
The charge stems from a 2010 investigation targeting the Puente 13 street gang’s drug activities in the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
“In addition to participating in drug trafficking activities that include collecting ‘taxes’ or ‘rent’ on behalf of the Mexican Mafia member who controlled Puente 13, Garcia admitted that he murdered another gang member who failed to… make those extortion payments,” U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Garcia and two other gang members who have since been convicted in connection with the slaying shot and killed 44-year-old David Dragna of East Valinda after luring him to an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Pritchard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, according to DOJ and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Officials described Garcia as a former member of the 18th Street gang, while Dragna was part of the Townsmen gang.
The 18th Street gang, Townsmen and Puente 13 all operate under the leadership of the Mexican Mafia, Jenkins said.
As part of the same investigation that led to Garcia’s conviction, the then-leader of the Puente 13 gang and his brother were sentenced to life in federal prison in 2013.
The investigation was a joint effort by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
COVINA >> Police jailed a gang member after finding him carrying a loaded handgun and 16 grams of methamphetamine at a Covina bowling alley Friday night, officials said.
A reported argument between rival gang members about 7:20 p.m. first drew police to the Brunswick Covina Bowl, 1060 W. San Bernardino Road, Covina police Sgt. Tony Zavala said.
Gabriel Christian Reed, a 24-year-old documented gang member from West Covina, began walking away when officers arrived but was quickly detained, he said.
“He had a loaded 9mm (handgun) in his pocket, along with 16 grams of methamphetamine,” Zavala said.
Reed was booked on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun, possession of methamphetamine for sales and possession of a firearm with narcotics, the sergeant said.
Reed crossed paths with authorities less than two months ago when he was the victim of a shooting in an unincorporated county area near West Covina, officials said.
He suffered a gunshot wound to his back about 3:20 p.m. June 10 in the 4000 block of Frijo Avenue, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Tonya Edwards. Few details were available, as the victim did not appear to be cooperating with investigators.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Covina Police Department.
LOS ANGELES >> A Hacienda Heights man accused of laundering drug money through nightclubs he owns in Pico Rivera and Moreno Valley has agreed to plead guilty to a charge that could send him to prison for 25 years, according to authorities and court documents.
Edgar De Dios Fragoso, 38, has agreed to enter a guilty to a single federal charge of money laundering, according to a plea agreement filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles.
Under the plea arrangement, six additional counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy are to be dismissed, according to the document.
Fragoso pleaded not guilty to the eight-count federal indictment in March.
A hearing at which Fragoso will formally change his plea was yet to be scheduled, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said.
Fragoso is expected to receive a sentence of 25 years in federal prison, court records show.
He also agreed to forfeit his liquor license, Mrozek said.
“This brings some amount of closure to the case,” he said.
Prosecutors allege Fragoso laundered more than $35,000 in U.S. proceeds from methamphetamine sales on behalf of a drug dealer operating out of Mexico, and also collected $200,000 in payments from undercover federal agents posing as representatives of a drug-trafficking organization, according to the indictment.
Fragoso, who was arrested Feb. 23, is free on a $100,000 bond.
SOUTH PASADENA >> Three South Pasadena residents helped police capture a man police said stole a bicycle and tried to steal a delivery van early Saturday, police said.
Edwin Lopez, 32, of Los Angeles was arrested on suspicion of residential burglary, attempted auto theft, possession of burglary tools and possession of drug paraphernalia, South Pasadena police Cpl. Craig Phillips said. It was Lopez’s fourth arrest over the past month, according to county booking records.
The incident began about 8 a.m. when a resident of the 1000 block of Magnolia Street spotted a burglar leaving an underground parking structure of a condominium complex with a neighbor’s bicycle, the corporal said.
The witness told the bike owner of the theft and ran after the thief, Phillips said. The owner and the witnesses’ wife jumped into a car and followed.
Phillips said the three caught up with the fleeing bike burglar in the 100 block of Pasadena Avenue. After grappling with the suspect and briefly holding him for police, Lopez ultimately broke free of his captors and ran, leaving behind the bicycle and his backpack.
Lopez then jumped into an Amazon delivery van, which had the keys in the ignition, and started the car before realizing he was not alone, Phillips said. The 17-year-old daughter of the delivery driver, who was sitting in the passenger seat, screamed, and Lopez jumped out of the van and continued fleeing on foot.
Police arrived within a minute and captured Lopez without a struggle, Philliips said.
The backpack Lopez dropped contained burglary tools and a methamphetamine pipe, Phillips added.
No injuries were reported to either the suspect, victim or the good Samaritans.
Lopez has already been arrested twice this month by South Pasadena police on suspicion of theft- and drug-related crimes, Phillips said.
He was also arrested by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Transit Services Bureau deputies Aug. 16, records show.
Lopez was being held in lieu of $50,00 bail at the Pasadena Police Department jail pending his initial court appearance, records show.