Rowland Heights doctor convicted of murder for 3 patient overdose deaths; first such conviction in U.S. history


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.

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Small amount of cash, marijuana stolen in Rowland Heights home-invasion robbery

ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> A man armed with a knife barged into a Rowland Heights home and robbed a resident of a small amount of money and marijuana late Wednesday, officials said.
The crime was reported about 10 p.m. at a home in the 17900 block of Calle Los Arboles, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Saleeby said.
A man in his 20s has been in contact with the robber via social media prior to the incident, Saleeby said.
The robber arrived with a knife and demanded money from the victim, ultimately fleeing with less than $50 and a “small amount” of marijuana, the lieutenant said.
He was last seen getting into a green Toyota pickup truck with a long-haired driver waiting at the wheel, Saleeby said.

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San Bernardino woman expected to face charges in ‘bizarre’ Rowland Heights crash caught on viral video

ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> A San Bernardino woman who inexplicably stopped and exited a stolen car along a major street before it rolled downhill unoccupied and collided with opposing traffic in an incident caught on camera in a viral Internet video is expected to face charges in connection with bizarre crash, officials said Thursday.
Jasmine Lacey, 22, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs following the crash, which took place about 3:45 p.m. Sept. 1 on Harbor Boulevard, between Vantage Point Drive and Pathfinder Road, California Highway Patrol officials said.
A YouTube video of the crash had garnered 2.9 million views as of Thursday afternoon.
She was released from custody without charges pending the results of blood analysis, but was expected to face charges of DUI causing injuries, possession of a stolen car and driving without a license, CHP Sgt. Armando Perdomo said.
CHP officers determined Lacey was heavily under the influence of an unknown drug, Perdomo said. She offered no explanation for her behavior.
“She was unable to clarify a statement because she was so intoxicated,” the sergeant said.
In the video, Lacey can be seen bringing the 2010 Hyundai Sonata she was driving to a screeching halt. She then exits the car, “leaving the vehicle in drive,” CHP officer A. Stubblefield said in a written statement.


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UPDATED: ‘Bizarre’ crash caught on camera in Rowland Heights

ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> A woman is accused of intoxicated driving after she abruptly stopped her car along a major street, abandoned the vehicle and allowed it to careen into opposing traffic in a “bizarre” crash captured in a video that emerged this weekend, officials said.
The crash, which took place about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday along Harbor Boulevard between Vantage Point Drive and Pathfinder Road, was recorded by a dashboard camera in a video that quickly went viral after being uploaded to YouTube late Friday by user UlikeUC Here. By Saturday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 170,000 times.
As depicted in the video, titled, “Bizarre Accident,” a woman was at the wheel of a silver Hyundai Sonata heading downhill along the major thoroughfare when car suddenly came to a screeching halt. The driver exited the car and walked away casually, allowing the Hyundai to continue rolling out-of-control.
The Hyundai crossed over a center divider and into opposing traffic lanes, where it collided with an SUV. Another SUV then became caught up in the wreck as well before the driverless Hyundai continued to the side of the road and struck two trees along the sidewalk, according to Officer A. Stubblefield of the CHP’s Santa Fe Springs area office.
The drivers of the other two vehicles involved in the crash reported only minor injuries, officials said.
The driver of the Hyundai, 22-year-old Jasmine Lacey, of San Bernardino, was taken to an area hospital for “a non injury-related reason” before CHP officers arrived on scene, Stubblefield said.
“(Lacey) was later contacted and identified at St. Jude Medical Center facility and, after investigation of the traffic collision, was arrested for DUI,” he said.
But Lacey was released from custody early Saturday due to insufficient evidence to support a criminal complaint, according to Los Angeles County booking records.

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Rowland Heights woman, former Hacienda Heights couple among five accused of running $30 million pyramid scheme

LOS ANGELES >> A federal grand jury Thursday indicted a Rowland Heights woman, a former Hacienda Heights couple and two other defendants who are accused of running a $30 million pyramid scheme targeting Chinese communities on both coasts, authorities said Friday.
Wen Chen “Wendy” Lee, 53, of Rowland Heights; Cheong Wha “Heywood” Chang, 47, of Taiwan and a former resident of Hacienda Heights; Chang’s wife Toni Chen, 46; Dalian “David” Guo, 53, of Hyde Park, New York; and Chih Hsuan “Kiki” Lin, 50, of Los Angeles and La Vegas are each charged with 13 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
The five operated a Hong Kong-based company known as CKB, WIN169 Biz Solutions Ltd., CKB168 Ltd. and Cyber Kid Best Education Limited, officials said.
The company purported to run a profitable business selling online educational courses for children, “but in reality was a pyramid scheme designed to generate new revenue by adding new investors,” Mrozek said.
Prosecutors allege the defendants collected about $30 million from investors, primarily in Chinese-American communities in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City between 2011 and 2014. They kept about $6.5 million of the money for themselves and transferred the rest to others involved in the scheme, according to the indictment.
“We believe that over 1,000 people invested in CKB, though it is unclear how many of those people invested directly through the defendants charged in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Goorvich said.
To lure investors into the scam, the defendants made numerous false promises and statements about CKB, which was not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, authorities said.
All five defendants are expected to appear in court to enter pleas next month, Mrozek said. They were arrested earlier this month following the filing of a sealed criminal complaint, Mrozek said.
Lin, who is also accused in the indictment of threatening victims in order to collect funds and dissuade them from talking to authorities, is being held without bond, while the others have been freed on bonds ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. If convicted as charged, each defendant faces up to 265 years in federal prison.

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Woman fatally stabbed in Rowland Heights; sister-in-law accused of murder



ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> A woman died early Sunday after she was stabbed inside a Rowland Heights townhouse, and her sister-in-law has been arrested in connection with the slaying, authorities said.
The stabbing took place about 2 a.m. in the 1900 block of Batson Avenue, Los Angles County Sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The victim was taken to a hospital where she succumbed to her injuries a short time later.
“According to witnesses, the victim was arguing with her sister-in-law inside their 0816_NWS_SGT-L-STABBING1apartment,” according to Deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. “During the argument, the sister-in-law — a female-Hispanic, 19 years old — stabbed the victim in the neck and then fled the location. The sister-in-law was located a short time later and taken into custody without incident.”
Detectives detained the suspect for questioning before ultimately arresting her on suspicion of murder, officials said. Her identity was not released Sunday.


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West Covina man sentenced for San Gabriel Valley arson spree


POMONA >> A West Covina man received an eight-year prison sentenced Friday after admitting an arson spree targeting six San Gabriel Valley businesses late last year and early this year, officials said.
During what was scheduled to be a pretrial hearing in Pomona Superior Court, David Lin, 43, pleaded “no contest” Friday to five counts of arson of property and one count of arson of an inhabited structure, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. The outcome was the result of a negotiated plea arrangement.
Judge Salvatore Sirna sentenced Lin to eight years in state prison and ordered him to register as an arson offender for life, officials said.
Lin was arrested Feb. 3 after investigators linked him to a series of seven arson fires that ignited primarily inside the bathrooms of San Gabriel Valley businesses since December, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. John Hanson said at the time. No one was injured in the fires, at least one of which caused thousands of dollars worth of damage.
The fires were reported in December at the Guppy House restaurant in Hacienda Heights, as well as the Rolling Wok restaurant in Rowland Heights.
Two more similar fires broke out in January at L & L Hawaiian Barbecue in Walnut and at Office Depot in Rowland Heights, investigators said. The final three fires were reported the day of Lin’s arrest at a McDonalds, a Del Taco and Ten Ren’s Tea Time, all in Rowland Heights.
A motive for the bizarre crime spree was not clear, prosecutors said. Officials described Lin as a former West Covina resident who had been living in his car at the time of the arsons.

PHOTO of Davin Lin courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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$1.8 million worth of marijuana seized from 2 Rowland Heights homes; 6 suspects arrested


ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> Narcotics investigators seized $1.8 million worth of marijuana from two Rowland Heights homes and arrested six suspects during a bust Tuesday, authorities said.
Detectives developed information that a home in the 18600 block of La Guardia Street in Rowland Heights was being used to grow marijuana, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective T. Simpson said in a written statement. Deputies arrived to conduct a search later the same day.
“An elaborate marijuana grow system was discovered at the location where several thousand dollars in U.S. currency and 300 marijuana plants at various stages of growth were seized,” Simpson said. Equipment such as lights, filters and fans used to grow the marijuana and conceal its odor were also discovered.
Deputies arrested four men and two women at the La Guardia Street home, officials said. Their names were not released Wednesday.
A child at the home was placed into protective custody by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
0723_NWS_SGT-L-RHGROW2Information gleaned at the La Guardia grow house led detectives to another in the 1200 block of Lindengrove Avenue, Simpson said.
“Although no suspects were located at the residence, (sheriff’s) narcotics investigators seized 646 marijuana plants, also at various stages of growth,” the detective said.
“The investigation is ongoing and there is no additional information available at this time,” he said.
Nearby in Baldwin Park, a house fire led police to discover about 1,000 marijuana plants growing inside a home Tuesday evening, officials said. An El Monte man was arrested in connection with the grow operation.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Detective Simpson at 909-595-2264. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Walnut man found dead after Rowland Heights car crash named

ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> Officials Sunday released the identity of a Walnut man found dead at the wheel of his car after suffering an apparent medical emergency and crashing into a residential front yard.
Steven Irving Fischer, 61, died at the scene of the incident, which was reported just after 9 p.m. Wednesday in the 19200 block of Windrose Drive in Rowland Heights, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
An autopsy had been performed, but Fischer’s cause of death was deferred pending the results of further testing, Corral said.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Brian Axt said the driver had dropped off a passenger before the crash which was reported just after 9 p.m.
Fischer was traveling east when his 2000 Jaguar came to a stop in the middle of the road, then accelrated toward the curbline and ended up in a front yard, California Highway Patrol officials said.
There were no signs of trauma on the body, Corral said.

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Rowland Heights man sentenced for fatal La Puente stabbing

POMONA >> A 28-year-old Rowland Heights man was sentenced Tuesday to 26 years to life in prison for stabbing to death an ex-boyfriend in an industrial area in La Puente, authorities said.
Andres Aguirre was convicted June 2 of the first degree murder of Joseph Chacon of El Monte, whose body was found behind a business in the 15900 block of Old Valley Boulevard on Feb. 12, 2014, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. The men had been involved in a previous relationship but were friends at the time of the stabbing.
Ardalani said Aguirre drove him to La Puente, Ardalani said. Chacon got out of the car to urinate when Aguirre followed after him and stabbed him in the chest and back.
The prosecution argued that Aguirre stabbed Chacon because he felt angered and disrespected by Chacon for taking phone calls while the men spent the evening together. Aguirre’s defense attorney, Louisa Pensanti said her client acted in what he believed to be self-defense.
“He wasn’t angry, he was fearful,” she said.
Chacon had on the phone with a man Aguirre believed to be involved with gangs, Pensanti said. Believing Chacon was arranging an attack of some kind, Aguirre stabbed him, Pensanti said.
Pensanti also disputed the prosecution’s assertion that Aguirre provided Chacon with a large amount of alcohol prior to the fatal stabbing. Pensanti said Aguirre brought only two beers with him, though Chacon drank more of his own alcohol. “He wasn’t plied with liquor,” Pensanti said.
The defense asked the jury to convict Aguirre of the lesser crime of manslaughter, but the jury sided with the prosecution and found Aguirre guilty of first-degree murder.

– Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day

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