LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- A 77-year-old Little Falls doctor was charged with liability for the drug-induced death of a 26-year-old Clifton patient to whom he prescribed oxycodone.
Dr. Byung Kang also was charged with money laundering -- as was his wife, 73-year-old Soo Kang, who was his receptionist, state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said.
Operating from an office on Long Hill Road, Kang sold 90-count prescriptions for 30 milligram oxycodone pills to various patients who had no medical need for it for $150 or $200, a grand jury indictment charges.
The potent pain pills are known to be a gateway drug for addition to opiates, including heroin, Porrino said.
Kang’s own records "revealed that he knew many of those patients were addicted to oxycodone or were reselling the pills," the Attorney General said.
The grand jury indictment charges Kang with "strict liability for the drug-induced death" of Michael Justice, who overdosed in a bedroom of his home on Dec. 6, 2014.
Police found empty bottles for oxycodone prescribed by Kang -- one of them filled just five days earlier.
Eighteen months before Justice died, his mother "called Kang and threatened to call police if Kang did not stop prescribing oxycodone for her son," Porrino said, but he "continued to write prescriptions until Justice’s death without medical justification."
Kang "turned his back on all medical and ethical standards, not to mention all standards of human decency,” which put him "on par with every street-corner drug dealer," the Attorney General said.
The indictment includes several counts along with the strict liability and money laundering -- among them, conspiracy, unlawful drug distribution and state tax evasion.
Soo Kang is charged with money laundering, conspiracy and tax-related counts.
The indictment was produced by 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.
It began, Porrino said, 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, the indictment charges, an undercover DEA agent bought seven prescriptions for oxycodone from Kang.
In each case, it says, 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," Porrino said.
"Kang did not order any diagnostic tests for her and his physical exam of her lasted only about one minute," he added. "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."
Last May 13, authorities arrested Kang on a charge of illegally distributing oxycodone.
A day earlier, a search of his office produced "incomplete patient records that, in most cases, contained no plan of care for patients and no medical justification for prescribing narcotics to them," Porriono said.
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 added.
Kang also knew that several patients were receiving pain medications from multiple doctors, authorities said.
"Several pharmacies notified Kang that they considered the oxycodone prescriptions that he was writing medically inappropriate and they would no longer fill them," Porrino said.
Authorities seized $564,304 in cash found during the warranted search, along with $869,777 from the Kangs' bank accounts -- all of which were considered illegal drug proceeds, he said.
Kang agreed to a consent order with the state Board of Medical Examiners in July that temporarily prohibits him from practicing medicine.
“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 DCJ Direction Director Elie Honig.
“We’re attacking the problem at its source through investigations targeting those who callously profit from the diversion of prescription painkillers, including licensed professionals,” Honig said.
Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben presented the case to a state grand jury in Trenton that handed up the indictment.
A judge there assigned the case to Passaic County.