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Westminster doctor gets 5 years in drugs-for-cash case

Vu Le sold prescriptions for up to $150 each to people seeking painkillers, including Oxycodone, with no proven medical need.

November 16, 2009|By Scott Glover

A doctor who ran a pain clinic in Westminster was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison Monday for writing prescriptions for powerful painkillers in exchange for cash.

Vu Le, 46, sold the prescriptions for up to $150 each to people he did not examine and who had no demonstrated medical need for the drugs, according to federal prosecutors.

Most of the prescriptions were for Oxycodone, a potent and addictive painkiller sometimes referred to as synthetic heroin.

Le pleaded guilty to 15 felony counts in June and admitted that he was prescribing drugs outside the scope of professional practice.

As part of the investigation into Le, undercover DEA agents went to his office and posed as people seeking drugs. Le failed to examine the agents or take thorough medical histories before prescribing the drugs, then taking cash payments, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Le had two types of files in his office. Some were marked "cash," the others "patient," prosecutors alleged. The cash files applied largely to whites to whom he was illegally prescribing drugs. The patient files were mainly for Asians who were receiving legitimate medical treatment, according to a pre-sentencing filing by Assistant U.S. Atty. Terri K. Flynn.

After his arrest in December 2006, Le told DEA agents his "pain management" business brought in about $50,000 a month, accounting for about 70% of his overall revenue.

scott.glover@latimes.com

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