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Dr. Andrew Sun convicted of 17 felonies over painkiller prescriptions

Dr. Andrew Sun
Dr. Andrew Sun at his clinic in East L.A.
(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

A 78-year-old doctor who federal officials said made more than $1 million from illegally prescribing potent painkillers, including Vicodin and Xanax, was convicted of drug trafficking charges Thursday.

Andrew Sun, of La Mirada, was found guilty of 17 felony counts — including three counts of money laundering — following a three-day trial, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Doctor convicted: An article in the Aug. 16 LATExtra section said Andrew Sun of La Mirada was convicted of drug trafficking charges after illegally prescribing painkillers, including Vicodin and Xanax. Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication.
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Prosecutors said Sun, who operated medical clinics in San Gabriel and East Los Angeles, “profited by prescribing addictive pain killers and other controlled substances to persons whom he believed were drug addicts.” He issued more than 24,000 prescriptions for controlled substances between 2009 and 2012, they said.

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He faces up to 157 years in federal prison at his Nov. 10 sentencing, prosecutors said.

Sun surrendered his license to prescribe controlled substances in 2012 after authorities with the Drug Enforcement Administration, California Medical Board, Internal Revenue Service and the state Department of Healthcare Services searched his home and raided his clinics.

During a series of undercover operations conducted by law enforcement, Sun didn’t conduct any physical examinations and sold prescriptions for $150 in cash — even when he believed he was writing prescriptions for drug addicts, officials said.

The jury heard audio of the undercover operations in which Sun was recorded directing his patients to verbally feign symptoms to justify the prescriptions.

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During one interaction, Sun offered to write a prescription for maximum-strength Vicodin but told an undercover agent posing as a patient, “You got to tell me if there’s any pain anywhere.”

The agent asked, “What’s a legitimate one? What’s a good one?” After Sun suggested “back pain,” the agent responded, “There you go. Sounds good to me.”

Evidence at trial also included disciplinary filings from the state Medical Board showing Sun was at the center of a separate undercover investigation in 2004 that found he had prescribed Vicodin to patients even though they weren’t in pain. The board placed Sun on probation and required him to document and report all of his prescriptions for Vicodin and other controlled substances.

During the trial, prosecutors said Sun falsified records he submitted to the Medical Board by reporting diagnoses that weren’t mentioned during his appointments with patients.

In a telephone interview Friday evening from his home in La Mirada, Sun denied wrongdoing and called the prosecution’s case against him “unfair.” Sun also complained that he wanted to testify, but that his lawyers didn’t allow it.

If he had testified, Sun said he would have told jurors he did prescribe drugs to addicts, but did so in an effort to wean them off the medications.

“Addiction is a medical matter, but the law says addiction is a crime,” he said. “When I am treating a disease the law may feel I am assisting a crime.”

Sun’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

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Sun is due back in court on Aug. 25, at which time the court will consider whether he will be ordered to forfeit nearly $350,000 in drug proceeds that were previously seized by the government.

debbie.truong@latimes.com


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