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Doc pleads not guilty in prescription drug deaths

March 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Rowland Heights doctor pleaded not guilty to murder charges on Friday after three of her patients died from prescription drug overdoses.

A judge denied a reduction in Dr. Lisa Tseng's $3 million bail.

The 42-year-old doctor was arrested on March 1 following a long investigation involving DEA agents posing as patients. She is charged in the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, of Lake Forest, on March 2, 2009; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert, on April 9, 2009; and Joseph Rovero III, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon, on Dec. 18, 2009.

Tseng allegedly gave prescriptions for drugs like Xanax, Oxycontin, Vicodin and Adderall at a rate of 25 per day over a three-year period with minimal questions and only cursory patient examinations.

"She was a legalized drug dealer, as far as I am concerned," said April Rovero, mother of one of the victims.

Rovero said in 2009, her son, a senior at Arizona State University, took a trip to L.A. with friends to allegedly get prescription medication from Tseng. She says within days of taking the drugs, her son died.

"He died on Dec. 18, so we were a week away from Christmas when this happened to us. He did not come home other than in a casket," April Rovero said.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say Tseng, who they've dubbed "Dr. Feelgood," has done more than overprescribe drugs. They say she's guilty of murder, responsible for the deaths of three otherwise healthy men in their 20s.

Tseng ran a clinic in Rowland Heights with her husband, who is also a doctor. She came under scrutiny by the California Medical Board and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008 after a pharmacy reported problems with her prescriptions. Tseng wrote more than 27,000 prescriptions over three years starting in January 2007.

On top of the murder charges, Tseng also faces 21 other felony counts, including four involving undercover DEA agents, alleging she prescribed drugs using fraud and without a legitimate purpose.

The DEA suspended her license to write prescriptions in 2010 and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California said Tseng voluntarily surrendered her medical license. Her husband continues to run their clinic.

In court, lawyers for the murder suspect asked the judge to reduce her $3 million bail. The judge denied that request. Tseng is due back in court late next month.


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