California Medical Board lead investigative agency in case
LOS ANGELES - On October 30, 2015, a Los Angeles area doctor was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder for prescribing massive quantities of addictive and dangerous drugs to patients with no legitimate need, three of whom died in 2009 of overdoses.
A jury found Hsiu Ying “Lisa” Tseng, 45, guilty of 23 counts, including 19 counts of unlawful controlled substance prescription and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. The guilty verdict marks the first time in the United States in which a doctor has been convicted of murder for overprescribing drugs.
"This verdict sends a strong message to individuals in the medical community who put patients at risk for their own financial gain," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. "In this case, the doctor stole the lives of three young people in her misguided effort to get rich quick. This is the most severe penalty we have ever gotten on a doctor who illegally overprescribed drugs to patients."
Tseng was convicted of second-degree murder for the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest; Steven Ogle, 24, of Palm Desert; and Joseph Rovero, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon.
Nguyen died March 2, 2009. Ogle died a month later on April 9, 2009. Rovero died Dec. 18, 2009. All were patients of Tseng, who prescribed a myriad of drugs for the three young men.
"Doctors are suppose to be professionals we can trust with our health," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "Having higher regard for financial gain than a patient's life is despicable and I applaud the jury for delivering a verdict that will keep Tseng away from others and send a very loud message to others in the medical profession. Kudos to the California Medical Board investigators who saw this case through."
Tseng, licensed to practice in 1997, opened a storefront medical office in Rowland Heights in 2005. During the time frame when nine of her patients died in less than three years, Tseng took in $5 million from her clinic and continued dispensing potent and addictive drugs unabated, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Deputy District Attorneys John Niedermann and Grace Rai of the Major Narcotics Division prosecuted the case.
In closing arguments, Niedermann told jurors that in dozens of instances, Tseng kept no medical records of visits or patient prescriptions. In many instances, she faked medical records when authorities began investigating, he said.
Tseng, who has been in custody since March 2012, returns to court on Dec. 14, 2015, for sentencing before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli. She faces up to life in state prison.
The Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation in 2008 after a pharmacy reported overlapping customers. The lead investigative agency was the California Medical Board.