A Rancho Palos Verdes physician was arrested on suspicion of writing prescriptions for powerful painkillers and muscle relaxants to an undercover agent who showed him an X-ray of a dog, authorities said.
Dr. Richard Seongjun Kim, 42, was charged with 21 counts of illegally prescribing drugs with no legitimate medical need to undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
Agents posing as patients visited Kim’s Western Avenue clinic over the course of three months in 2014, prosecutors said. Kim allegedly wrote prescriptions for Norco, Xanax, Soma and Adderall without performing physical exams, taking vital signs or filling out medical charts.
Kim saw patients “by appointment only” and worked in a locked clinic with no other staff, said Deputy Dist. Atty. John Niedermann. Undercover agents who arrived at the clinic had to call Kim or send him a text message before he would unlock the door and let them in, Niedermann said.
Once inside, agents met with Kim, who sat behind a desk and did not take them into an exam room, for up to an hour mostly having small talk, Niedermann said.
“There was no physical exam, no vitals taken, nothing medically done to justify the prescriptions,” Niedermann said.
On one occasion, an agent brought in a chest X-ray of a dog. Kim allegedly examined the X-ray before writing the male agent prescriptions for painkillers hydrocodone and tramadol, as well as the muscle relaxant Soma, Niedermann said.
Calls to Kim’s clinic were not returned.
Kim, who was arrested Wednesday outside his clinic, pleaded not guilty on Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 16 years and four months in county jail, prosecutors said.
It's not the first time a dog X-ray has been used in an undercover sting of a doctor's office. In 2012, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy posing as a patient presented a Glendora doctor an X-ray of a German shepherd to accompany her tale of an injured back and neck.
Though the X-ray had the dog's name, Recon, and the name of an animal hospital printed on it, Dr. Rolando Lodevico Atiga wrote a prescription for a narcotic painkiller and a muscle relaxant, officials said.
Atiga examined the X-ray and referred to specific bones, explaining what they were to the agent, according to an audio recording of the visit.
“That's the hip joint right there,” the doctor said, apparently indicating one of the dog's bones.
Atiga was charged with multiple counts of unlawful prescription of a controlled substance, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. The case, she said, is still pending.