TRENTON, NJ – A Little Falls doctor was indicted on March 2 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.
State Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said that 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.
Kang, 77, of Little Falls, operated a family/general practice out of an office on Long Hill Road in Little Falls. He was indicted March 2 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).
In addition, 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.
Kang was arrested in May 2016 on a charge of illegally distributing oxycodone. In July 2016, he 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. The state said that Kang’s 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. Porrino's office said that 18 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 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.”
Porrino's office reported that 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 report stated that 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. It noted that 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 reported that it 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.
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.