Doctor gets probation for illegal prescriptions

A physician was spared prison time Tuesday, partly because of his age and his forfeiture of $200,000 to the government for prescribing narcotics without valid medical reasons.

Dr. Whan Yun, 70, of Wrens, Ga., pleaded guilty in October to the unlawful dispensation of prescriptions. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to five years' probation.

U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. could have sentenced the physician within the federal sentencing guideline range of 10 to 16 months in prison.

Judge Bowen said he decided to depart from the guidelines because of Dr. Yun's age, forfeiture consent and his years of service and good deeds described by family and friends during Tuesday's hearing.

Defense attorney Pete Theodocion asked the judge to consider the 33 years Dr. Yun served as one of the few family practice physicians in Jefferson County. He also took turns running the hospital's emergency room.

Dr. Yun could not deny that he wrote prescriptions to generate office visit payments, Mr. Theodocion said. But Dr. Yun lost his medical practice because of that, his attorney said.

Agents with the state and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that Dr. Yun was prescribing narcotics without reason in 2005. A confidential source was equipped with a recording device and sent into Dr. Yun's office. In a single visit, the man received several prescriptions and drug samples to treat pain and impotency.

It wasn't the first time Dr. Yun's prescription practices got him into trouble.

In 1983, the state's physician disciplinary board punished him for prescribing narcotics without legitimate medical reason, and in excessive quantities and frequencies. He was put on probation for five years and forced to surrender his DEA permit to prescribe certain narcotics for two years.

While on probation, Dr. Yun cannot work in the medical field in any capacity. He must also pay a $5,000 fine and perform 150 hours of community service. The first six months will be served on home detention with electronic monitoring.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

DRUG ABUSE

According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Justice Department, about 7 million Americans abused prescription drugs in 2005, up from 3.8 million in 2000.