Bek sentencing delayed until October



August 26, 2005 - A Gary doctor convicted of illegally dispensing hundreds of prescription drugs will have to wait until October to learn how long he'll serve in federal prison.

Dr. Jong Bek, 64, of Chicago, was scheduled for a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp in South Bend at 1:30 p.m. today. His attorney on Thursday morning requested the hearing be postponed after the government filed a motion Wednesday seeking forfeiture of assets held in six of Bek's bank accounts.

The motion to continue the hearing was granted, despite the judge's clear displeasure about the last-minute filings.

"Last-minute filings in sentencing proceedings are the bane of this court," Sharp wrote. "No further delay will be granted to anyone. Dr. Bek's bond conditions are each and all continued, and he is ordered -- repeat, ordered -- to be present for sentencing at the aforesaid time and place."

A federal jury found Bek guilty in May of more than 26 felony counts of conspiracy and abetting the illegal dispensing of controlled substances by writing hundreds of prescriptions for commonly abused drugs.

In June, Sharp ordered Bek to turn over to the government $535,061 collected as part of the prescription scheme and held in one of his bank accounts.

Late Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Collins -- who prosecuted the doctor's case -- filed a motion with the court seeking forfeiture of the six other bank accounts held by Bek, arguing none of the money he made working as a doctor at the Gary clinic was obtained legally.

Sharp ordered $535,061 seized from one of Bek's accounts late Thursday afternoon. The issue of the funds in the other accounts, the judge said, will be resolved in civil forfeiture proceedings.

During Bek's trial, Gary police officers posing as patients testified they were able to obtain prescriptions for addictive pain-killers and anti-anxiety drugs such as Vicodin, Xanax, Darvocet and Valium after receiving minimal examinations from Bek.

Collins said during the trial that Bek did not accept appointments and only took cash as payment.

Patients were known to line up in the morning outside of Bek's clinic at 2247 Broadway in Gary's Midtown section to see the doctor for a few minutes and receive the prescriptions.

Charles Holesinger, Bek's attorney, filed a motion Thursday morning asking to postpone the sentencing hearing, arguing that the doctor sent several letters to the court -- against his attorney's advice -- while Holesinger was on vacation. In the motion, Holesinger said he has "found it increasingly more difficult to communicate with Dr. Bek," but he thinks the matter can be resolved.

Holesinger also cited concern for Bek's "emotional health" as a reason for the request for the continuance.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen scoffed at the suggestion that Bek is emotionally unwell in his response to Holesinger's filing, saying Bek's "emotional health" was determined to be stable earlier this month.

Merrillville pharmacists Robert Dickerson and Leonard Tucker, of the 55th Avenue Pharmacy; Duane Sier and James Sier, of Washington Drugs in downtown Gary; and Richard Faloona -- Bek's office manager -- all are also awaiting sentencing for their roles in the prescription drug scam.

At trial, Faloona testified that he coached new patients on what to say in order to obtain the drugs they were seeking. The pharmacists admitted to filling the prescriptions after other local pharmacies stopped doing business with Bek.

The Siers, Tucker and Faloona are scheduled for sentencing hearings before Sharp on Sept. 16. Dickerson's sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 28 in Sharp's courtroom.







Bek sentencing delayed until October
Feds seeking forfeiture of doctor's bank accounts



August 26, 2005 - A Gary doctor convicted of illegally dispensing hundreds of prescription drugs will have to wait until October to learn how long he'll serve in federal prison.

Dr. Jong Bek, 64, of Chicago, was scheduled for a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp in South Bend at 1:30 p.m. today. His attorney on Thursday morning requested the hearing be postponed after the government filed a motion Wednesday seeking forfeiture of assets held in six of Bek's bank accounts. The motion to continue the hearing was granted, despite the judge's clear displeasure about the last-minute filings.

"Last-minute filings in sentencing proceedings are the bane of this court," Sharp wrote. "No further delay will be granted to anyone. Dr. Bek's bond conditions are each and all continued, and he is ordered -- repeat, ordered -- to be present for sentencing at the aforesaid time and place."

A federal jury found Bek guilty in May of more than 26 felony counts of conspiracy and abetting the illegal dispensing of controlled substances by writing hundreds of prescriptions for commonly abused drugs.

In June, Sharp ordered Bek to turn over to the government $535,061 collected as part of the prescription scheme and held in one of his bank accounts.

Late Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Collins -- who prosecuted the doctor's case -- filed a motion with the court seeking forfeiture of the six other bank accounts held by Bek, arguing none of the money he made working as a doctor at the Gary clinic was obtained legally.

Sharp ordered $535,061 seized from one of Bek's accounts late Thursday afternoon. The issue of the funds in the other accounts, the judge said, will be resolved in civil forfeiture proceedings.

During Bek's trial, Gary police officers posing as patients testified they were able to obtain prescriptions for addictive pain-killers and anti-anxiety drugs such as Vicodin, Xanax, Darvocet and Valium after receiving minimal examinations from Bek.

Collins said during the trial that Bek did not accept appointments and only took cash as payment.

Patients were known to line up in the morning outside of Bek's clinic at 2247 Broadway in Gary's Midtown section to see the doctor for a few minutes and receive the prescriptions.

Charles Holesinger, Bek's attorney, filed a motion Thursday morning asking to postpone the sentencing hearing, arguing that the doctor sent several letters to the court -- against his attorney's advice -- while Holesinger was on vacation. In the motion, Holesinger said he has "found it increasingly more difficult to communicate with Dr. Bek," but he thinks the matter can be resolved.

Holesinger also cited concern for Bek's "emotional health" as a reason for the request for the continuance.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen scoffed at the suggestion that Bek is emotionally unwell in his response to Holesinger's filing, saying Bek's "emotional health" was determined to be stable earlier this month.

Merrillville pharmacists Robert Dickerson and Leonard Tucker, of the 55th Avenue Pharmacy; Duane Sier and James Sier, of Washington Drugs in downtown Gary; and Richard Faloona -- Bek's office manager -- all are also awaiting sentencing for their roles in the prescription drug scam.

At trial, Faloona testified that he coached new patients on what to say in order to obtain the drugs they were seeking. The pharmacists admitted to filling the prescriptions after other local pharmacies stopped doing business with Bek.

The Siers, Tucker and Faloona are scheduled for sentencing hearings before Sharp on Sept. 16. Dickerson's sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 28 in Sharp's courtroom.







Doctor wants conviction overturned



Friday, June 17, 2005 HAMMOND | A Gary physician facing prison for illegally prescribing addictive drugs is asking a federal judge to overturn his conviction on grounds prosecutors broke the law to win it.

Dr. Jong Bek claims in an affidavit filed this week in U.S. District Court that state and federal prosecutors targeted his Gary medical clinic out of "vindictiveness and greed." Bek says the government trampled his constitutional rights and seized $535,061 of his assets by unfairly prolonging his prosecution and denying him the defense lawyer of his choice.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Collins presented six days of testimony in U.S. District Court in South Bend last month that Gary police officers posing as patients were able to obtain prescriptions for addictive painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs such as Vicodin, Xanax, Darvocet and Valium after only cursory medical exams by Bek. She said Bek didn't bother with appointments, taking cash from anyone who appeared off the street.







Doctor ordered to forfeit funds




Jun. 01, 2005 SOUTH BEND — A federal judge ordered a Gary doctor to turn over to the government $535,000 he collected from illegally using his clinic as a prescription drug-dealing operation.

U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp on Tuesday authorized that Dr. Jong Bek’s bank account be forfeited. A jury on Friday found Bek, 63, guilty of 26 felony counts of conspiring to illegally distribute prescription drugs and health care fraud.

Throughout the eight-day trial, prosecutors alleged that Bek dispensed a wide range of prescription painkillers, and several of his patients became addicted.

Bek’s attorney Clark W. Holesinger has asked the judge to grant a new trial.

Sharp said he will rule on that motion at a later date. If the conviction stands, Bek faces imprisonment, with sentencing set for Aug. 26.

Two pharmacists and Bek’s former office manager pleaded guilty to related charges before Bek’s trial began.

Prosecutors in Lake County originally charged Bek with murder in the deaths of two patients, but those charges later were dropped when a toxicologist determined he could not link the deaths to medications Bek prescribed.





Doctor guilty on all 26 counts




May 28, 2005 SOUTH BEND — Dr. Jong Hi Bek hung his head as the bailiff read the list of charges.

A federal jury deliberated just over four hours before finding Bek guilty of all 26 of the remaining counts of conspiring to illegally distribute prescription drugs and health care fraud. Earlier in the day, he sat alone, dabbing his eyes, in the marble main hallway of the federal building in South Bend.

Prosecutors painted a picture of a physician’s office in Gary where addicts lined up for him to open in the morning. A Gary undercover officer was able to get Bek to write prescriptions for her on several occasions after what the indictment characterized as a five-minute “sham examination.”

Earlier, two of the pharmacists caught up in the same investigation pleaded guilty before the trial began, as did Bek’s one-time office manager, Richard Faloona.

“No comment from us. They did our talking for us,” said Susan Collins, assistant U.S. attorney, motioning to the empty jury box, after the trial was over.

After the verdict, Collins asked U.S. Judge Allen Sharp to take Bek into immediate custody.

Born in Korea, Bek is a U.S. citizen.

“In spite of being a naturalized U.S. citizen and he has been here for some time, he has ties to a foreign country,” Collins said.

Sharp denied the motion. He said he would consider it again on Tuesday, when the jury will return to decide whether the doctor will have to forfeit the assets seized in the case.

The government froze Bek’s bank accounts in 2004, forcing him to give up his former attorney, Jerry Jarrett.

U.S. Judge William C. Lee recently ruled Jarrett was a victim of vindictive prosecution on charges of money laundering.

Bek’s court-appointed attorney, Clark Holesinger, filed a motion Monday, asking Sharp to grant a new trial. In the motion, Holesinger said Jarrett was targeted by federal prosecutors because he successfully led Lake County prosecutors to drop murder charges against Bek.

Lake County originally pressed charges against Bek for the deaths of two patients, Shawn Rivera, 18, of Porter County’s Jackson Township, and Roger Muckwa Jr., 46, of Westville.

With Jarrett’s removal, the motion stated Holesinger said he was given the case with 4,000 patient files, 18 weeks before the trial.

Sharp has not ruled on the motion.

Throughout the eight-day trial, prosecutors charged that Bek dispensed a wide range of prescription painkillers, including Vicodin, Darvocet and Xanax. Several of his patients became addicted.

During her opening arguments, Collins said, “They came from as far away as Alabama to see Dr. Bek.”





Feds: Gary doctor an easy writer




May 17, 2005 - Prosecutors claim addicts from all over the region, and even those from out of state, knew they could get painkillers and other prescription drugs from Gary physician Jong Hi Bek without hassle.

Opening statements began Monday afternoon in the trial of Bek and his former assistant who face 27 counts of of conspiring to illegally distribute prescription drugs and health care fraud.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Collins told the jury that Bek’s reputation as an easy person to get drugs from spread far and wide.

“They even came as far away as Alabama to see Dr. Bek,” Collins said.

All one had to do to get a prescription filled was give Bek a symptom and $50, Collins said. The doctor didn’t perform any significant medical tests to see if his patients actually needed the drugs he prescribed, according to the government.

This caused plenty of repeat business, Collins said.

“A lot of these people became horribly addicted to these drugs,” she said.

Bek’s attorney, Clark Holesinger, countered in his opening statement to the jury that his client is a physician licensed to prescribe medications. He pointed out that the drugs Bek prescribed — Vicodin, Darvocet and Xanax — were low-level drugs and prescribed for medical purposes. Bek also prescribed them in very low dosages, Holesinger said.

Bek and his office assistant, Richard Faloona, along with four pharmacists were named in an indictment two years ago alleging that between 2000 and 2002 the pharmacists routinely filled prescriptions for controlled substances which Bek prescribed.

Faloona allegedly helped advance the scheme by offering to coach patients on what to say in order to get the desired drug from Bek, according to the indictment.

Faloona’s attorney, Martin Kus, told the jury there’s no evidence linking his client to these allegations. He pointed out his client isn’t licensed in medicine and only worked in Bek’s office for 10 months.

“Mr. Faloona never dispensed any medications,” Kus said.

The prosecution alleges Bek was so popular among addicts that there would often be a line of people waiting outside his door in the morning before he opened. Patients would sign their names on a sign-in sheet and wait hours for the doctor to get to them. The indictment accuses Faloona of accepting money from patients in exchange for getting to see the doctor sooner.

Kirk Banker, an investigator for Gary Police Department’s narcotics division, testified that while working undercover he bought prescriptions from Bek on several occasions. He alleges Bek would do a five-minute examination on him and then write a prescription for whatever drugs he requested.

Last week, two of the pharmacists, Robert Dickerson and Leonard Tucker, both pleaded guilty to one count each of distribution of a controlled substance. They admitted that while working at 55th Avenue Pharmacy, they knowingly filled four illegitimate prescriptions, according to the plea agreement.

Pharmacists Duane Sier, 69, and James Sier, 61, both of Valparaiso, also entered plea agreements on Friday.

The Siers, owners of a Gary pharmacy, Washington Drugs at 2480 Broadway, each plan to plea to charges of dispensing and distributing illegal drugs.

Bek’s and Faloona’s trial is expected to last several weeks.





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