Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Doctor sold painkillers out of Starbucks cafes, authorities say

October 26, 2011 | 12:08 pm

An Orange County doctor has been indicted on charges he illegally prescribed addictive opiate painkillers to people he barely knew at meetings he arranged at local cafes.

Alvin Ming-Czech Yee, 43, of Mission Viejo, was arrested Tuesday at his Irvine office where he is a general practitioner by local and federal narcotics agents, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Over the course of a year, Yee allegedly met with people every night at Starbucks coffee shops and, in exchange for cash, provided them prescriptions for various opiate painkillers, including OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, Adderall and Suxoxone, federal prosecutors said.

In a search-warrant affidavit, a federal agent wrote that he observed Yee selling at Starbucks to people between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Starbucks baristas the agent interviewed said they also saw Yee dispensing prescriptions, according to the affidavit.

Pharmacists in the area said in interviews that they refused to honor Yee's prescriptions because "they considered them outside the scope of a professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose," wrote Mark Nomady, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

One "young adult" who was receiving opiates from Yee has died, and the case is under review by the Orange County coroner's office, Nomady wrote.

A third of the prescriptions Yee allegedly wrote were for people age 25 and younger, prosecutors alleged.

People arrested with large amounts of the drugs in cities such as Seattle, Phoenix and Detroit told officers they had traveled to Orange County to buy their drugs from Yee, prosecutors said.

Abuse of prescription opiate painkillers is at record levels in many parts of the country, according to law enforcement and public health officials.

Addicts and public health workers say many of those who abuse the expensive painkillers later switch to cheaper heroin to supply their habits.

A Times telephone call to Yee's Irvine office requesting comment was not returned.


O.C. English professor missing for two months

Arrest made in Yorba Linda double homicide case

5 inmates convicted in 2006 fatal beating at O.C. County Jail

-- Sam Quinones