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Former addicts: Doctor charged with murder was easy mark for drugs

June 14, 2012 |  6:38 pm

Four former heroin addicts testified Thursday that they were able to easily acquire addictive painkillers and anti-anxiety medications from Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng, a Rowland Heights doctor charged with murder in connection with three fatal overdoses.

Word of mouth from friends and other drug users led the Orange County men to travel to Tseng’s storefront clinic, where they exaggerated or lied about pain and walked away with their desired prescriptions, they said.

Brandon Barnes, then 19, drove with a friend, also a drug user, from Laguna Niguel to see Tseng in 2009. After a short visit with the doctor, during which he exaggerated the pain he felt in his hand, Barnes left with a prescription for Opana, Xanax and Soma, which he split with his friend, he testified.

The father of one of the patients also testified that he called Tseng in 2010 and demanded that she stop prescribing drugs to his son, which he said she did.

Among those who also testified Thursday was Gloria Rodriguez, a receptionist in Tseng’s office. When regular patients changed doctors and stopped seeing Tseng, Rodriguez said, their records would be marked with the word “traitor.” She did not say who marked the files.

Barnes and Rodriguez testified during a preliminary hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to try Tseng on three second-degree murder charges, as well as 20 felony counts of prescribing drugs to people with no legitimate need for the medications and one count of prescribing drugs using fraud.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In nearly two weeks of testimony, prosecution witnesses have said Tseng failed to adequately examine and diagnose them and prescribed addictive narcotics despite warning signs that they were abusing drugs.

Tseng is charged in connection with the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest; Joey Rovero, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon, Calif.; and Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert. Testimony is expected to end next week.

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-- Hailey Branson-Potts

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