APR 10 (LOS ANGELES) –A Los Angeles-area doctor surrendered this morning to federal authorities after being indicted on federal drug trafficking charges for allegedly illegally distributing drugs, including powerful and addictive painkillers. Dr. Andrew Sun, 78, of La Mirada, surrendered this morning at the United States Courthouse, where he is expected to be arraigned this afternoon.
Sun, who operated medical clinics in San Gabriel and East Los Angeles, is named in an indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on March 18. The indictment specifically charges Sun with 24 counts of illegally prescribing controlled substances including hydrocodone (a powerful narcotic painkiller commonly known by the brand names Vicodin and Norco), alprazolam (commonly known by the brand name Xanax), carisoprodol (best known as Soma), diazepam (the generic form of the brand name product Valium), and promethazine with codeine (a Schedule V cough syrup). The indictment also charges Sun with four counts of laundering the proceeds generated by his illegal prescriptions.
Sun issued nearly 5,000 prescriptions for controlled substances in a one-year period that ended in July 2010, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant executed at Sun’s residence and two medical offices on July 11, 2012. During the investigation detailed in the affidavit, Sun prescribed drugs, including hydrocodone, to undercover agents on 13 separate occasions, each time in exchange for $150 cash. The affidavit quotes Sun telling one undercover agent: “So if you want to insist on getting such a strong medicine, I’ll give it to you. I’m just a doctor, I’m not God, okay, so I cannot say no to something that you want to do… I only advise you not to, but, if you want to do it I can’t do, I can’t say no.”
The affidavit details another instance in which Sun encouraged an undercover agent to provide a fraudulent justification for the “maximum” allowable number of extra-strength Vicodin pills.
Based on review of the undercover recordings and other materials from the investigation, Dr. Rick Chavez, an expert in pain treatment, concluded that Sun’s interactions with each of the undercover agents “was insufficient, inappropriate, and inadequate,” according to the affidavit. Chavez concluded: “there is not only strong, but irrefutable evidence for inappropriate prescribing of controlled medications” by Sun.
An investigation by IRS - Criminal Investigation showed that Sun and his wife controlled 44 bank accounts, and that Sun deposited more than $1.1 million in cash into his accounts between 2008 and July 2012. 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.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
If convicted of the 28 counts in the indictment, Sun would face a statutory maximum sentence of 248 years in federal prison.