Los Angeles, California - In a plea agreement filed this morning, a San Gabriel Valley doctor has agreed to plead guilty to a federal drug trafficking charge for illegally distributing the powerful painkiller best known by the brand name OxyContin.
Dr. Daniel Cham, 48, of Covina, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of distribution of oxycodone and one count of money laundering.
In the plea agreement, Cham admits to unlawfully prescribing oxycodone to an undercover agent posing as a patient in March 2014 in exchange for $300 in money orders, which Cham then deposited into a bank account held in the name of another business. Cham made the deposit “knowing that the transaction was designed to conceal and disguise the nature and source of the money orders,” according to the plea agreement.
“Painkillers like oxycodone can be life-threatening to those who abuse them,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Many of the prescription drugs that find their way to the street come from doctors who prescribe them without medical justification. This defendant put lives at risk for money, making him no different than street-level drug dealer.”
Cham was initially charged in this case in October 2014 when a federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging narcotics trafficking, money laundering, fraud and making false statement to authorities. The indictment focused on prescriptions Cham wrote at various locations, including his medical offices in La Puente and Artesia.
As part of the investigation investigators in May 2014 executed federal search warrants at 13 locations, including Cham’s residence and medical offices. According to the affidavit in support of the search warrants, the doctor often saw patients between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and he post-dated prescriptions to make them appear to have been written on weekdays. Over the course of a year that ended in March 2014, Cham issued more than 5,500 prescriptions for controlled substances – primarily for oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam and carisoprodol – and he issued more than 42,000 such prescriptions since July 2010, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also discussed how an undercover officer made three visits to Cham’s La Puente office in 2014, and how Cham wrote prescriptions for controlled substances in exchange for $200 or $300 in cash or money orders. As discussed in the affidavit, Cham issued a prescription for oxycodone even though the undercover operative said he “had been high and drunk while receiving controlled substance prescriptions” previously from Cham. On another occasion, Cham prescribed oxycodone even though the undercover law enforcement officer presented, in lieu of photo identification, a written notice that his license had been suspended for driving under the influence.
Cham’s case is pending before United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who has scheduled an April 4 hearing for Cham to enter his guilty plea.
The drug trafficking and money laundering charges that Cham has agreed to plead guilty to each count carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
In his plea agreement, Cham also agrees to forfeit to the government more than $60,000 in cash that he admits are “proceeds of [his] illegal activity.”
The investigation into Cham was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS Criminal Investigation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Medical Board, and the Los Angeles Police Department.