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An Orange County physician was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison for illegally distributing opioids and other powerful narcotics by writing prescriptions for “patients” without a legitimate medical purpose.

Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 61, of Tustin, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who also fined him $35,000, and ordered him immediately remanded into federal custody.

Pham pleaded guilty in October 2022 to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Pham owned Irvine Village Urgent Care and conspired with licensed pharmacist Jennifer Thaoyen Nguyen, 52, of Irvine, who operated the Irvine-based Bristol Pharmacy, to illegally distribute narcotics, including opioids. Pham knowingly prescribed oxycodone, hydrocodone, amphetamine salts, and other controlled substances to people while acting outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, including to people he knew were drug addicts.

Because Pham knew that many pharmacies would not fill his prescriptions, he would direct his “patients” to Nguyen, who would fill them. Pham and Nguyen also took steps to attempt to conceal their criminal conspiracy by agreeing to have Pham write prescriptions for non-controlled substances to avoid red flags to the DEA and Nguyen’s wholesaler based on the amount of controlled substances Pham was prescribing and Nguyen was dispensing.  

In November 2017, Pham wrote prescriptions to a patient, identified in court documents as “S.C.” and whom Pham knew was a drug addict, for more than 700 pills of 30mg oxycodone. To provide more narcotics to S.C., in August 2018, Pham wrote prescriptions for 75 pills of 30mg oxycodone in the name of a person labeled in court documents as “R.C.,” who was S.C.’s wife and who had never seen Pham for any medical appointment. R.C. was unaware that Pham issued the prescription in her name for S.C.

As part of the conspiracy, Pham admitted from January 2013 to December 2018, he wrote prescriptions to 18 different “patients” for a total of approximately 53,693 pills of oxycodone, approximately 68,795 pills of hydrocodone, and approximately 29,286 pills of amphetamine salts.

According to court documents, Pham abused his trust and authority as a physician to fuel the addiction of drug users in exchange for financial gain.  Pham generated large amounts of cash from the operation of Irvine Village Urgent Care by charging between $100 and $150 per office visit, including many times collecting office visit fees in which Pham wrote prescriptions for the “patients” even though they did not even have an office visit.

“[Pham], a licensed physician trusted by society and the patients that went to him, stopped treating patients and, plain and simple, became a drug dealer,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum “He turned ‘patients’ into addicts and/or fueled the addictions of drug abusers.”

Nguyen pleaded guilty in October 2022 to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. On March 17, Judge Staton sentenced Nguyen to 33 months in federal prison and fined her $10,000.