Doctor charged with writing illegal prescriptions, money laundering

A doctor has been indicted on federal drug trafficking charges for allegedly turning his East Los Angeles and San Gabriel clinics into lucrative mills where he doled out prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other widely abused medications in exchange for cash.

Dr. Andrew S. Sun, 78, of La Mirada, surrendered to federal authorities and was expected to be arraigned Thursday.

Sun faces 24 counts of prescribing Vicodin, Xanax, a cough syrup with codeine known on the street as "Purple Drank" and other dangerous narcotics to undercover agents who had no medical need for the drugs. The indictment also charges him with four counts of money laundering.

Chad Lewin, one of Sun's attorneys, said the doctor would plead not guilty.

"We will be defending Dr. Sun to the full extent of the law," Lewin said.

According to prosecutors, Sun issued nearly 5,000 prescriptions for dangerous narcotics in one year. The investigation found that Sun and his wife had 44 bank accounts into which the doctor deposited more than $1.1 million in cash between 2008 and 2012, they said.

Sun prescribed drugs to undercover agents more than a dozen times, according to an affidavit filed in support of a July 2012 raid on his clinics. He allegedly charged $150 in cash for each prescription.

During one exchange with an undercover agent, Sun said he was just a doctor, not God, according to the affidavit.

"If you want to insist on getting such a strong medicine, I'll give it to you," Sun allegedly told the agent after debating whether she needed Vicodin. "I'm just a doctor. I'm not God, OK, so I cannot say no to something that you want to do.... I can only advise you not to, but if you want to do it ... I can't say no."

The affidavit describes another visit by an undercover agent in which Sun encouraged the agent to offer a fake excuse to legitimize his prescription of a high number of extra-strength Vicodin pills.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Benjamin Barron said Sun surrendered his DEA registration to prescribe narcotics at the clinics following the raid.

In an interview with The Times following the 2012 raid, Sun insisted he did nothing wrong. He said doctors, not law enforcement authorities, should be the ones to determine if examinations are appropriate.

"There is no standard of what is an adequate examination," Sun said, speaking in his East L.A. clinic. "It's a matter of opinion.... The doctor and patient should develop a mutual trust rather than a mutual suspicion."

Prosecution consultant Rick Chavez, a pain treatment expert, reviewed those exchanges and other evidence and concluded there was no legitimate basis for many of Sun's prescriptions, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Times staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.

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