If the federal charges against Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham are true, the owner of Irvine Village Urgent Care may be the baddest doctor to appear under my Bad Doctor illustration.
The 57-year-old Tustin man has been charged in at least five overdose deaths and tied to the accused killer of a Costa Mesa fire captain and the presumed Thousand Oaks mass shooter.
Specifically, Pham is alleged to have illegally prescribed powerful narcotics, resulting in multiple deaths across Southern California and millions of dollars for his and his wife’s personal bank accounts, the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration announced Tuesday.
Pham could be sent to federal prison for 40 years based on a conviction on the charges lodged against him.
Pham wrote prescriptions to people he did not examine, and he sold opioids to drug addicts and dealers who in turn sold them on the black market, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, where at least one prosecutor referred to the defendant as a drug dealer armed with a prescription pad.
The U.S. Attorney says that Pham prescribed opioids to Mission Viejo 25-year-old Stephen Taylor Scarpa, who authorities say was under the influence of a controlled substance on Nov. 3, when the van he was driving crashed into the bicycle of Mike Kreza, the fire captain who died from his injuries. Sheriff’s deputies say they found multiple prescription medications inside the van that was driven by Scarpa, who the Orange County District Attorney’s office went on to charge with second-degree murder.
The feds say they Pham sent a text message indicating drugs he prescribed to someone else were in the possession of Ian David Long, the alleged gunman in the Nov. 7 massacre at the Borderline Bar and Grill nightclub in Thousand Oaks, where 12 people were slain before Orange-born Long turned his gun on himself.
Pham wrote so many prescriptions that a CVS pharmacy in Irvine stopped filling them from him five years ago because the doctor could not justify the number of opioid pills he wrote scripts for, according to prosecutors, who add that among the narcotics undercover DEA agents easily obtained through Pham’s prescriptions were the powerful “holy trinity” (opioids like hydrocodone, a benzodiazepine such as Valium and a muscle relaxer like Soma.
Other drugs Pham routinely prescribed included Adderall, oxycodone, Tramadol, Suboxone, Norco, alprazolam, and hydrocodone bitartrate-acetaminophen, according to the feds, who pin five overdose deaths from 2014 through 2017 on the doctor along with sixth from a fatal side effect.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.