OC doctor sentenced for illegally prescribing opioids to known drug addicts

An Orange County doctor was sentenced Friday to 151 months in federal prison for illegally prescribing opioids and other powerful narcotics to so-called "patients" without a legitimate medical purpose.

Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 61, of Tustin, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who also fined him $35,000, and ordered him immediately remanded into federal custody.

Pham owned Irvine Village Urgent Care. According to the Department of Justice, he conspired with licensed pharmacist Jennifer Thaoyen Nguyen, 52, of Irvine, who operated Bristol Pharmacy. Pham knew that many pharmacies would not fill his prescriptions, so he direct people to Nguyen, who would fill them. 

Officials say Pham knowingly prescribed oxycodone, hydrocodone, amphetamine salts, and other controlled substances to people without a legitimate medical purpose, including to those who were drug addicts. 

In November 2017, Pham wrote prescriptions to a patient, who was a drug addict, for more than 700 pills of 30mg oxycodone, a statement from the DOJ read. In August 2018, Pham then wrote prescriptions for 75 pills of 30mg oxycodone to the wife of that "patient", who officials say never met Pham. 

In court, Pham admitted he wrote prescriptions to 18 different "patients" for a total of approximately 53,693 pills of oxycodone, approximately 68,795 pills of hydrocodone, and approximately 29,286 pills of amphetamine salts from January 2013 to December 2018.

When Pham was charged in 2018, prosecutors said five people who received prescriptions from the doctor died of overdoses.

According to court documents, Pham charged between $100 and $150 per office visit, and even collected office visit fees when writing prescriptions for people who did not have an office visit.

"[Pham], a licensed physician trusted by society and the patients that went to him, stopped treating patients and, plain and simple, became a drug dealer," prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum "He turned ‘patients’ into addicts and/or fueled the addictions of drug abusers."