TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a doctor from Passaic County has been indicted on charges that he sold prescriptions for high-dose pills of the highly addictive opioid painkiller oxycodone to numerous patients, including individuals he knew were drug addicts and drug dealers. Dr. Byung Kang faces a first-degree charge of strict liability for drug-induced death for allegedly prescribing the oxycodone that killed a 26-year-old man in Clifton, N.J.
Dr. Byung Kang, 77, of Little Falls, N.J., who operated a family/general practice out of an office on Long Hill Road in Little Falls, was indicted yesterday by a state grand jury on charges of strict liability for drug-induced death (1st degree), money laundering (1st degree), conspiracy (2nd degree), unlawful distribution of oxycodone (2nd degree), unlawful distribution of oxycodone within 1,000 feet of a school (3rd degree), filing a fraudulent state tax return (3rd degree), and failure to pay state income tax (3rd degree). Kang’s wife, Soo Kang, 73, who acted as the receptionist for Kang’s medical practice, is charged along with him in the money laundering, conspiracy and tax-related counts of the indictment.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New Jersey Tactical Diversion Squad in Newark, and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Bureau. Kang was arrested in May 2016 on a charge of illegally distributing oxycodone. In July 2016, Kang entered a Consent Order with the State Board of Medical Examiners prohibiting him from practicing medicine until further action by the Board.
From June 2010 through April 2016, Kang allegedly sold 90-count prescriptions for 30 milligram oxycodone pills to numerous patients for $150 or $200 when the patients had no medical need for the potent pain pills, which are known to be a gateway drug for opiate addiction, including heroin addiction. Kang’s own records allegedly revealed that he knew many of those patients were addicted to oxycodone or were reselling the pills. Kang is charged with strict liability for drug-induced death in the death of Michael Justice, 26, of Clifton, who was found dead of an oxycodone overdose on Dec. 6, 2014 in a bedroom of his home, where empty bottles for oxycodone prescribed by Kang were recovered, including an empty bottle for a prescription filled just five days earlier. Eighteen months before he died, Justice’s mother called Kang and threatened to call police if Kang did not stop prescribing oxycodone for her son, but Kang allegedly continued to write prescriptions until Justice’s death, without medical justification.
“Doctors are supposed to preserve health and life, but Dr. Kang allegedly turned his back on all medical and ethical standards, not to mention all standards of human decency,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By indiscriminately peddling this dangerous painkiller – which has been the gateway to so much opiate addiction, misery and death – Dr. Kang allegedly caused the death of a vulnerable young man and put himself on a par with every street-corner drug dealer.”
“Oxycodone is at the heart of an epidemic of opiate addiction that is killing too many young people in New Jersey, either directly through pill overdoses or by moving them on to the cheaper alternative of heroin,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re attacking the problem at its source through investigations targeting those who callously profit from the diversion of prescription painkillers, including licensed professionals.”
Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division said, “Unfortunately, this is another example of a doctor who was allegedly more concerned with his financial health than the health of his patients. He allegedly disregarded his patients’ addictions and kept prescribing oxycodone without justification, which resulted in the death of Michael Justice.”
The investigation of Kang began after the DEA received tips from law enforcement and community members that Kang was a major source of oxycodone prescriptions in northern New Jersey. Between October 2015 and April 2016, an undercover DEA agent allegedly obtained seven prescriptions for oxycodone from Kang. In each case, she was charged $200 for a prescription for 90 high-dose 30 milligram oxycodone pills. The agent initially indicated that her shoulder felt tight, but when asked, she said she was not experiencing any pain or limitation of her range of motion. Kang did not order any diagnostic tests for her and his physical exam of her lasted only about one minute. Kang allegedly acknowledged that perhaps the agent should not be taking oxycodone, but he proceeded to write 90-count prescriptions for the highly addictive opioid seven times over a period of seven months.
On May 12, 2016, following the undercover investigation, members of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the DEA and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Bureau executed a search warrant at Kang’s medical office. The search revealed incomplete patient records that, in most cases, contained no plan of care for patients and no medical justification for prescribing narcotics to them. The records indicated Kang knew that at least five patients were addicts and he knew at least 10 patients were reselling the prescriptions for oxycodone. He also allegedly knew that several patients were receiving pain medications from multiple doctors. The records revealed numerous gross deviations from medical standards, including the absence of thorough physical exams, lack of diagnostic tests or insistence on the patients having them, lack of drug testing for illicit drugs, and the length of time that Kang prescribed oxycodone to patients. Several pharmacies notified Kang that they considered the oxycodone prescriptions that he was writing medically inappropriate and they would no longer fill them. Kang was charged on May 13, 2016 with second-degree distribution of oxycodone.
The state seized $564,304 in U.S. currency during the execution of the search warrant and seized $869,777 from bank accounts of the Kangs. The money laundering count of the indictment charges that those sums are the proceeds of Dr. Kang’s criminal activity in distributing oxycodone. The state has filed a forfeiture action to seize those proceeds. Byung and Soo Kang are charged with filing fraudulent tax returns and failure to pay income tax for the calendar years ending in 2014 and 2015 for failing to report and pay taxes on the proceeds of the criminal activity.
Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Annmarie Taggart and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the attorneys, detectives and investigators who investigated the case for the Division of Criminal Justice and Division of Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Bureau. Attorney General Porrino also commended the special agents of the DEA’s New Jersey Tactical Diversion Squad in Newark who conducted the investigation under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski. Deputy Attorney General Susan Wolansky is handling the state’s forfeiture action in this case.
First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The first-degree strict liability for drug-induced death charge carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed. The money laundering charge carries a mandatory term of parole ineligibility of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed. That charge also carries a fine of up to $500,000, and an additional anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of up to $500,000 or three times the value of any property involved. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Timothy P. Lydon in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Passaic County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
– For Dr. Byung Kang: Stephen Turano, Esq., of Newark, N.J.
– For Soo Kang: undetermined.
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