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Silver Lake 'walking man' was under investigation in overdose

July 23, 2010 | 10:12 pm
Sole matesMarc Abrams, the Silver Lake physician known as the "walking man" who was found dead in his hot tub earlier this week, was under criminal investigation in connection with his treatment of a 25-year-old patient who overdosed on prescription drugs, according to several law enforcement sources.

Authorities investigating Abrams -- well known in Silver Lake for his brisk and shirtless walks around the reservoir -- conducted a series of undercover operations in which officers posing as patients were able to obtain powerful prescription drugs based on obviously questionable notes signed with names including "Dr. Kevorkian," "Dr. Pepper" and "Dr. Dre," according to a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Abrams kept nighttime office hours and "catered to nothing but addicts," the official added.

Authorities served a search warrant on Abrams' office in North Hollywood last year, but the affidavit detailing the probable cause for the search was filed under seal. Investigators seized patient files, among other records, according to law enforcement officials.

The case was presented to the district attorney for potential prosecution, one official said, but no charges had been filed against Abrams at the time of his death, which is being investigated as a potential suicide, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

A lawyer for Abrams said he was "a fine physician with an impeccable record" who had done nothing wrong. The lawyer, Michael A. Zuk, said he had no knowledge of any criminal investigation and had not been contacted by or spoken to any law enforcement agency on Abrams' behalf.

Abrams "was a very popular figure -- not some sleazy, shady doctor who was giving away scrips on the corner," Zuk said. "He was a beloved figure in the community."

The investigation began in the wake of the October 2008 death of a patient named Joseph Garcia, who died of an overdose of the painkiller Oxycontin, sometimes referred to as synthetic heroin. Other drugs also were found in his system. There is a thriving black market for such drugs, particularly among young adults, according to law enforcement officials.

Garcia's mother, Lori, filed a wrongful-death claim against the doctor last year, alleging that he was professionally negligent in prescribing drugs that resulted in the overdose. Garcia could not be reached for comment, but her lawyer, Robert Gibson, said law enforcement officials from "multiple" agencies had contacted her about the criminal investigation surrounding her son's death.

Read the full story here.

-- Scott Glover and Lisa Girion

Photo: Marc Abrams walks past a mural bearing his likeness on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake on May 6. Abrams would walk 20 to 30 miles a day, often reading a newspaper. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times Audio slide show