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O.C. doctor pleads guilty to illegally prescribing narcotics

July 20, 2011 |  6:23 pm

An Orange County doctor pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal drug trafficking charges for illegally prescribing painkillers and other commonly abused drugs to patients without a legitimate medical need.

Nazar Al Bussam, 72, who operated clinics in Downey and Los Angeles, wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone, alprazolam and other drugs in exchange for cash.

Federal prosecutors estimate that at one point Al Bussam’s practice was bringing in more than $1 million a year from bogus prescriptions. Some of his patients were later arrested while selling drugs he’d prescribed, authorities alleged.

Al Bussam, who lives in Newport Coast, agreed to plead guilty to an 18-count indictment on the eve of his trial after an adverse ruling by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero, who limited the scope of testimony he would allow from another doctor expected to testify on Al Bussam’s behalf.

Al Bussam’s attorney, Benjamin Gluck, said he planned to appeal Otero’s ruling. If the appeal is successful, Gluck said, the guilty plea would be withdrawn and the case would proceed to trial. 

As part of the plea, Al Bussam also agreed to forfeit $450,000 in cash.

He faces up to 230 years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Oct. 5, though most defendants receive significantly less than the maximum.

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-- Scott Glover

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