LOS ANGELES, CA – An Orange County physician was taken into custody last night after a year-long investigation resulted in a grand jury indictment that charges him with illegally prescribing dangerous, addictive opiates to “patients” he barely examined during meetings that cost as much as $600 and were often held at Starbucks stores.
Alvin Mingczech Yee, 43, of Mission Viejo, was arrested last night at his Irvine office by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and officers with the Orange and Huntington Beach Police Departments. Yee was arrested pursuant to a 56-count indictment that charges him with prescribing drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, “outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.”
“The abuse of prescription drugs has risen to epidemic levels, with m ore than twice as many Americans abusing prescription drugs than the those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants combined,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “It is unfortunate that some abuse their positions of trust and prescribe these powerful and addictive drugs with no medical need. DEA is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who abuse their authority are brought to justice.”
Yee met with numerous “patients,” including three undercover operatives, during evening rendezvous at Starbucks locations across Orange County, where he wrote prescriptions for drugs best known by brand names that include OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, Adderall and Suboxone, according to court documents. A California Department of Justice database showed that half of the prescriptions written by Yee were for oxycodone, the generic name of OxyContin, and that one-third of his “patients” were no older than 25.
According to an affidavit in support of search warrants that were executed last night, Yee met with up to a dozen people every night of the week and provided them with prescriptions in exchange for cash. The affidavit also states that people arrested with large quantities of opiates in Seattle, Phoenix and Detroit said they traveled to Orange County to meet with Yee to obtain prescriptions. An expert hired by the government to review evidence against Yee concluded that his practice was a “front for drug dealing,” according to the affidavit.
The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury last Wednesday, charges Yee with 50 counts of illegal distribution of a controlled substance by a medical practitioner, and six counts of illegal distribution of a controlled substance by a medical practitioner to a minor, which under federal law is someone under the age of 21.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Yee is expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana.
The charge of illegal distribution of a controlled substance by a medical practitioner carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison. The charge of illegal distribution of a controlled substance by a medical practitioner to a minor carries a mandatory minimum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
The investigation of Yee was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which received the assistance of the Orange Police Department, the Huntington Beach Police Department and the California Medical Board.