The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced. that a Rancho Palos Verdes physician charged with illegally prescribing drugs to undercover operatives was convicted,
The downtown Los Angeles jury deliberated about two hours before finding Dr. Richard Seongjun Kim, 44, guilty of 17 felony counts of unlawfully prescribing controlled substances without a legitimate medical need to undercover operatives working with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Kim was a 1998 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine. His prescription rights have been suspended by court order since July 15, 2015.
Deputy District Attorney Emily Street of the Major Narcotics Division, who prosecuted the case, said Kim would ask the operatives to bring in prior medical charts and X-rays to justify the prescribing.
On one occasion, an operative brought in a chest X-ray of a dog, including its tail, that was used to justify his prescriptions, prosecutors said.
Over the course of three months in 2014, Kim wrote prescriptions for Norco, Xanax, Soma and Adderall without ever conducting a physical exam, taking any vital signs or completing any medical charts at his clinic on Western Avenue in Rancho Palos Verdes, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney Steve Meister said he was disappointed by the verdict and planned to argue to keep Kim out of jail. “My client has always been a caring and competent physician,” Meister said. “While the jury may have concluded that he unlawfully prescribed, custody in this case would be wholly unreasonable.”
The case against the general practitioner was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose operatives posed as patients at Kim’s Western Avenue clinic over the course of three months in 2014. Deputy Dist. Atty. Emily Street, the prosecutor who handled the case, said that Kim asked patients to bring in previous charts and X-rays to the sham medical exams. “He wanted a lot of records – not because he was interested in patients’ ailments, but he wanted to cover himself,” Street said.
His office had no staff and he typically exchanged text messages with patients to arrange appointments. He didn’t accept insurance – only cash or credit cards, the prosecutor said. “He would open up his office and lock the door behind him, and meet with the patient in his office,” Street said.
Without examining patients or writing out medical charts, he issued prescriptions for Norco, Xanax, Adderall and Soma, prosecutors said. During appointments, Kim sat behind a desk and engaged in mostly small talk, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Niedermann said in an earlier interview with The Times.
The undercover appointments were recorded by hidden cameras, and the video footage was shown to jurors. “It was all on video, which was really the crux of the case,” Street said. “There was no exam whatsoever – no vitals, very little history, if any, taken. It was not much of anything resembling the practice of medicine.”
He faces up to 13 years, four months in local custody when he returns on Sept. 30 for sentencing in Department 71 at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. He had been free on $100,000 bail during his trial, but was immediately remanded after the verdict was read.