Doctor Convicted Of Three Murders In Prescription Drug Overdose Case
LOS ANGELES - A Rowland Heights doctor was convicted today of three counts of second-degree murder for prescribing massive quantities of addictive and dangerous drugs to patients with no legitimate need, three of whom died of overdoses. A jury of ten women and two men found Hsiu Ying “Lisa” Tseng, 45, guilty of 23 counts, including 19 counts of unlawful controlled substance prescription and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.
The guilty verdict marks the first time in the United States where a doctor was convicted of murder for overprescribing drugs. Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys John Niedermann and Grace Rai of the Major Narcotics Division prosecuted the case, which was the result of an investigation conducted by the DEA and the California Medical Board.
“Lisa Tseng’s conviction should send a message to doctors who violate the public’s trust and engage in what is effectively drug trafficking,” said Anthony D. Williams, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division. “Along with our partner agencies, DEA will continue to aggressively target medical professionals writing prescriptions for highly addictive opioids outside the scope of legitimate medical practice.”
"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."
“This is the most severe penalty we have ever gotten on a doctor who illegally overprescribed drugs to patients,” District Attorney Lacey added.
Tseng was convicted of second-degree murder for the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest; Steven Ogle, 24, of Palm Desert; and Joseph Rovero, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon.
Nguyen died March 2, 2009. Ogle died a month later on April 9, 2009. Rovero died Dec. 18, 2009. All were patients of Tseng, who prescribed a myriad of drugs for the three young men.
Tseng, licensed to practice in 1997, opened a storefront medical office in Rowland Heights in 2005. During the timeframe 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. In August 2010, the DEA executed a federal search warrant at Tseng’s Rowland Heights clinic and served an Immediate Suspension Order of Tseng’s Certificate of Registration, as investigators believed Tseng’s continued ability to prescribe controlled substances constituted an imminent danger to public health and safety.
In closing arguments, Niedermann told jurors that in dozens of instances, Tseng kept no medical records of visits or patient prescriptions. In many instances, she faked medical records when authorities began investigating, he said.
Tseng, who has remained in custody since March 2012, returns to court on December 14 for sentencing before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli. She faces up to life in state prison.