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San Gabriel Valley doctor agrees to plead guilty to drug trafficking

A San Gabriel Valley doctor agreed to plead guilty to a federal drug trafficking charge after illegally distributing the painkiller best known by the brand name Oxycontin, authorities said Thursday.

Daniel Cham of Covina agreed to plead guilty to one count of distribution of oxycodone and one count of money laundering, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

Cham admitted to illegally prescribing oxycodone to an undercover agent who posed as a patient in March 2014 in exchange for $300 in money orders, according to the plea agreement. He then deposited the money orders into a bank account held in another business' name, the agreement said.

Cham made the deposit "knowing that the transaction was designed to conceal and disguise the nature and source of the money orders," the document said.

The 48-year-old was initially charged in October 2014 when a federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging narcotics trafficking, money laundering, fraud and making false statements to authorities.

The indictment focused on prescriptions Cham wrote at various locations, including his medical offices in La Puente and Artesia, authorities said. Investigators searched 13 locations in May 2014, including Cham’s residence as well as the medical offices.

Cham often post-dated prescriptions to make them appear to have been written on weekdays, according to the affidavit in support of the search warrants. Over the course of a year, Cham issued more than 5,500 prescriptions for controlled substances and, since July 2010, more than 42,000 prescriptions overall, the affidavit said.

The investigation was conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the California Medical Board and the Los Angeles Police Department.

The drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges the doctor pleaded guilty to carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

In the plea agreement, Cham also agreed to forfeit to the government more than $60,000 in cash that he admits are "proceeds of [his] illegal activity." 

Cham’s case is pending before United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who has scheduled an April 4 hearing for Cham to enter his guilty plea.

sarah.parvini@latimes.com

For more local and breaking news, follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini

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