STERLING – A local doctor accused of illegally dispensing drugs that led to the deaths of at least 3 people hired a physician to issue prescriptions when he was absent, federal prosecutors say.
Sterling residents Richard H. Ng, 61, and his wife, Lee Lee Foong, 54, were arrested May 15. He faces 89 counts of illegally dispensing controlled substances, conspiracy to dispense controlled substances, and tax fraud in crimes said to have happened over about a 5-year period. She is charged with seven counts.
Ng and Foong, his office manager whom he married in 2011, hired the unnamed physician to dispense drugs to patients at both their Sauk Medical Clinic offices, one at 705 W. Third St. in Sterling and one in DeKalb, the indictment says.
From January 2007 to October 2011, the couple conspired with the physician and with unnamed others to dispense Oxycodone, methadone, morphine and other pain medications “outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose,” it says.
No information was available Tuesday on where the doctor is from and whether he or she will face charges.
According to the indictment:
In an effort to maximize their billing, Ng and Foong scheduled multiple appointments in the same 15-minute time slots, and rushed patients through without taking medical histories or obtaining medical records, without performing tests or even doing physical examinations.
Initial patient visits lasted 10 to 15 minutes or less, and subsequent visits lasted 5 minutes or less. Foong determined the amount each patient paid, and charged some patients more if their visit with Ng lasted more than 10 minutes.
They ignored signs of drug misuse and abuse and deliberately upped the frequency and dosage of their prescriptions, specifically to keep their patients coming back for more, and kept doing so even after they knew patients had died, prosecutors say in the indictment.
As for the tax fraud, the couple, who also own numerous residential and commercial rental properties, also are accused of underclaiming and pocketing their profits, underpaying taxes to the tune of nearly $592,000 since 2008.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of all property derived from any criminal activity, including nearly $1.9 million in cash.
Detention hearings for the couple were held last week. Ng is free after posting $10,000 and his wife after posting $2,000.
According to the terms of their release, they are forbidden to have contact with each other or with any former patients, they can’t leave the federal court’s jurisdiction and they must surrender their passports.
Foong has a status hearing on June 27, Ng on Aug. 6.
Although the indictment accuses them of causing the deaths of three people, Ng and Foong are not charged with homicide or manslaughter. Unless they involve a federal agent or happen on federal property, those crimes usually are prosecuted by states, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Paccagnini said.
In July 2011, Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized medical records and documents from Ng’s clinics. That September, the DEA asked the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to immediately suspend Ng’s registration.
Ng had been under investigation since at least October 2010, the IDFPR said in documents a year later, explaining why it was yanking Ng’s medical and controlled substances licenses.
Sometime between 2010 and October 2011, three undercover DEA agents obtained prescriptions from Ng for various controlled substances, such as Vicodin ES and Norco, without being evaluated or examined. Those office visits were recorded, the IDFPR documents said.
Richard H. Ng, whose license to practice medicine and dispense drugs has been revoked, is charged with:
– 81 counts of dispensing controlled substances outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, each of which carries 5 years to life in prison in cases of death or injury, plus a $250,000 to $1 million fine.
– one count of conspiracy to dispense controlled substances outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
– seven counts of income tax fraud, each of which carries up to 3 years in prison or a fine up to $100,000 for an individual, or up to $500,000 for a corporation, or both.
Lee Lee Foong, Ng's wife and office manager, is charged with:
– five counts of dispensing controlled substances outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate legal purpose.
– one count of conspiracy to illegally dispense controlled substances outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
– one count of income tax fraud.