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Doctor Charged as ‘No. 1' Issuer of Fraudulent Prescriptions

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Montebello doctor has been arrested and charged with writing the largest number of fraudulent narcotic prescriptions in California, authorities said Tuesday.

Dr. Eric Tucker “is No. 1,” said Mike Gorewicz, supervising special agent for the state attorney general’s Narcotics Enforcement Bureau. “We feel his activity was quite significant.”

Tucker, 60, was arrested Monday at his Montebello office on a warrant accusing him of illegally selling prescriptions for the highly addictive drug Dilaudid, known as “drugstore heroin” because of its powerful narcotic properties.

Authorities allege that Tucker had made as much as $40,000 a month for the past eight years by selling prescriptions for the drug to people he was not treating for medical ailments.

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Dilaudid is normally prescribed for cancer patients and others in such excruciating pain that other painkillers do not work. Because it is so much in demand on the black market, doctors can only write 100 prescriptions a month for the drug unless they receive special permission.

Tucker’s arrest ends a yearlong investigation by state authorities and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that also has netted 22 “runners,” or people who allegedly obtained fraudulent prescriptions from Tucker and used them to obtain and sell Dilaudid tablets. Each pill has a street value of about $25 in Los Angeles and sells for as much as $80 on the East Coast, Gorewicz said.

When arrested, Tucker had little or no examining equipment in his office, according to authorities, who said the doctor described himself as a general practitioner specializing in treating back pain.

Authorities said they tracked a percentage of the prescriptions Tucker wrote for the drug and could find no real names and no real addresses for patients.

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“My gut feeling,” Gorewicz said, “is that there are probably few or no legitimate patients” for Tucker.

Dilaudid and some other narcotics are tracked through a system in which a record of a prescription is kept, not only by the doctor and pharmacies, but by a state computer. During a review of computer records and a subsequent investigation, authorities determined that Tucker has issued 7,700 prescriptions for Dilaudid since 1983, representing almost the maximum allowed every month, Gorewicz said.

Tucker is set to be arraigned this morning in Los Angeles Municipal Court. He was booked into the Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail, Gorewicz said.

Authorities said that under the alleged scheme, people would come to Tucker’s office with a list of one to five names. He would charge them $400 cash for each prescription, good for a bottle containing 100 Dilaudid tablets.

Tucker was planning to open a second office in Compton, which would have allowed him to issue double the number of allowable Dilaudid prescriptions, according to Gorewicz and records on file with the Medical Board of California.

Authorities also are moving to have Tucker’s medical license revoked. The attorney general’s office will seek a court order preventing Tucker from issuing prescriptions for the drug while the lengthy revocation process is under way before the medical board.

Tucker faces up to 36 years in prison if convicted, Gorewicz said.

Medical board records show that Tucker is a doctor in good standing and that he was first licensed to practice medicine in California in 1965.

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