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O.C. doctor to get sentence for illegal pain prescriptions

Dr. Alvin Ming-Czech Yee, who often met patients at Starbucks stores, will plead guilty to distributing a controlled substance, records show.

April 04, 2013|By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Alvin Ming-Czech Yee, above center, saw patients at Starbucks and wrote illegal pain prescriptions, authorities say.
Dr. Alvin Ming-Czech Yee, above center, saw patients at Starbucks and wrote… (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)

An Orange County doctor who often saw patients at Starbucks coffeehouses has agreed to serve at least eight years in federal prison for illegally selling prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other drugs, according to court records.

Alvin Ming-Czech Yee, 44, of Mission Viejo routinely wrote prescriptions for highly abused medications to patients with no legitimate need for them, authorities have alleged in court papers.

Yee and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Ann Luotto Wolf, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.

Yee was arrested in October 2011 at his Irvine office and was released on bond. He was charged with 56 counts of illegally distributing a controlled substance and was accused of selling prescriptions for cash after cursory examinations often conducted in coffeehouses and other unusual locales, according to a federal search warrant affidavit. Some of those transactions involved undercover federal drug agents posing as patients.

According to an agreement with prosecutors, Yee will plead guilty to seven counts of illegal distribution of a controlled substance by a practitioner and will agree to serve eight to 10 years in prison.

A medical expert who reviewed Yee's practice for federal prosecutors called it "a front for drug dealing," according to the search warrant affidavit. A third of his patients were 25 or younger, authorities alleged.

At least one patient, a 21-year-old Huntington Beach woman, died of a drug overdose in August 2011 after he prescribed drugs for her, according to a preliminary finding by the Orange County coroner's office, the affidavit states. The deputy coroner told investigators that "he recognized Yee's name as associated with several other overdose deaths that he was investigating," court documents state.

Authorities said Yee met up to a dozen people almost every evening between 7 and 11 in Starbucks stores throughout Orange County. He allegedly charged as much as $600 for meetings in exchange for prescriptions for drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Adderall, court records state.

Yee laughed and joked with his patients — and undercover DEA agents — and told them business was good, prosecutors allege. During one examination of a DEA confidential source, Yee took the person's pulse and blood pressure and said: "Bet you never had your blood pressure taken in a Starbucks before," according to the affidavit.

Several area pharmacists refused to honor prescriptions written by Yee because of the large number and high dosages of his narcotic prescriptions, court documents state.

"They are giving me the reaction like I'm the devil or something," Yee allegedly told a source assisting the DEA.

Investigators have seized large quantities of commonly abused drugs linked to Yee from suspected drug dealers and others in Seattle, Phoenix and Detroit, the affidavit states. Yee once took out his prescription pad in a Las Vegas casino to generate more cash for gambling, according to court records.

Yee, a general practice doctor, has a delinquent medical license, according to the Medical Board of California's website. His license expired last year.

Yee is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on April 17 to enter the plea.

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