A Rowland Heights osteopathic physician accused of second-degree murder stemming from the prescription-drug overdose deaths of three men in their 20s was scheduled to be arraigned in a downtown courtroom today.
Dr. Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng was arrested March 1 and has been jailed in lieu of $3 million bail. Her bail is to be reviewed at today's hearing.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba has said she would require proof that any bail money posted on behalf of the 42-year-old woman was not obtained feloniously.
Tseng is charged with three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, of Lake Forest on March 2, 2009; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert on April 9, 2009; and Joseph Rovero III, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student from San Ramon, on Dec. 18, 2009.
She is also charged with 20 counts of prescribing drugs without a legitimate purpose and one count of prescribing drugs using fraud -- all felonies.
One of the prescription counts involves methadone prescribed to Ogle less than a month before his death, while another involves Oxycodone prescribed to Rovero nine days before he died, according to the criminal complaint.
The other prescription drug counts involve a half-dozen prescription drugs prescribed -- including Methadone, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone -- for other
patients or prescriptions written for undercover officers, according to the District Attorney's Office.
If convicted as charged, she faces up to 45 years to life in state prison.
Tseng agreed last week to surrender her license as an osteopathic physician effective March 14, according to the Osteopathic Medical Board of California's website.
An accusation filed last month by the California Attorney General's Office on behalf of the state's osteopathic medical board alleges that Tseng "committed acts or omissions involving gross negligence in the care and treatment of 14 patients," including Nguyen and Rovero.
The medical board alleges that Nguyen -- identified as "Vu N." -- complained of neck and upper back pain and anxiety and saw Tseng seven times between Aug. 9, 2008, and Feb. 7, 2009, and that she "repeatedly wrote Vu N. prescriptions for controlled substances which included Alprazolam and Oxycodone (oxymorphone)."
An autopsy attributed the cause of his death to the combined effects of oxymorphone and Alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax, according to the document.
The board also alleges that Rovero -- identified as "Joseph R. III" -- filled prescriptions written by Tseng for Xanax and Oxycodone after his first and only visit to her on Dec. 9, 2009, when he complained of anxiety and pain in his lower back, hand and wrist, and that he overdosed and died on Dec. 18, 2009.
An autopsy determined he died from acute intoxication of Oxycodone and Xanax and also had alcohol in his system.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation in 2008 after a pharmacy reported overlapping customers, with the probe involving
undercover work and a search warrant that was executed at Tseng's clinic,
The DEA, in an August 2010 statement, reported its investigation showed that between September 2007 and July 2009, "Dr. Tseng routinely prescribed
highly abused Schedule II through IV controlled substances to drug-seeking
individuals, many of them between the ages of 18-26, while conducting cursory
or no medical examination" and that "many of those individuals in turn abused
or diverted those drugs for illicit purposes."
DEA special agents and California Medical Board investigators posed as patients seeking prescriptions for controlled substances during a half-dozen undercover visits to Tseng's office between April 2008 and July 2010, according to Timothy J. Landrum, special agent in charge of the DEA's Los Angeles Field Division.
On five of the six occasions, Tseng issued prescriptions for Vicodin, Suboxone and Xanax without taking a medical history and for no legitimate purpose, according to the DEA.
Following an August 2010 raid at her office, Tseng told the Los Angeles Times, "I really believe I did nothing wrong. I was really strict with my patients, and I followed the guidelines. If my patient decides to take a month's supply in a day, then there's really nothing I can do about that."