Local doctor accused of prescription scheme in Butler County

February 8, 2019 Cranberry Local News

CRANBERRY TWP — A local doctor is facing charges for allegedly forging prescriptions and paying for a Butler County man to fill them.

Sung Hong, 77, of Gibsonia, is charged with two felony counts and one misdemeanor count of acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance through misrepresentation. The charges were filed Feb. 1 by the Office of the Attorney General.

According to court documents, state narcotics agents were contacted in August 2017 by officials at the Ellwood City Hospital about fraudulent prescriptions being written. Those prescriptions for Ritalin and Zolpidem, a sleeping aid, were taken to a Cranberry Township drugstore, where the pharmacist refused to fill them due to the large quantity requested.

The complaint states that the prescribing doctor was listed as Hong, who officials said had retired from the hospital in March 2015 and should not have had possession of the prescription paperwork.

The prescriptions were requested by William Hribal, 58, of Slippery Rock, the complaint states. A Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Report for Hribal found that on several occasions in 2016 and 2017, he filled similar prescriptions at pharmacies in Cranberry Township and Butler. Hundreds of pills were obtained, the complaint states.

Agents interviewed Hribal, who said he was friends with Hong from when they worked together at Grove City Medical Center. He said in 2016, Hong invited him to lunch and asked for a favor of filling prescriptions.

Hribal said Hong would meet with him and drive him to various pharmacies to get the prescriptions filled, according to the complaint. Hong would give Hribal cash and pharmacy discount cards for the transactions, Hribal said, and he would hand the pills to Hong. He said Hong indicated he was mailing the prescriptions to his son.

Later that month, agents spoke to Hong, who allegedly admitted to writing the prescriptions, giving Hribal money to pay to fill them and taking him to the pharmacies.

According to the complaint, Hong told agents he personally used the drugs, and that “as he got older, he found it harder to concentrate at work.” He used the Ritalin to stay awake and concentrate, then would take the Zolpldem to offset the Ritalin and allow him to sleep.

Hong allegedly told agents that he knew his actions were wrong, but that he could not write prescriptions for himself. He said he was “embarrassed to go to another doctor for help.”

The complaint notes that agents worked with the Department of State to surrender Hong’s medical license.

Hong was arraigned the same day as charges were filed and waived them for court. He is free on $10,000 unsecured bond, awaiting a March 26 formal arraignment.

Meanwhile, Hribal is charged with acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, conspiracy to acquire or obtain possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation and criminal attempt to acquire or obtain possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation.

He was arraigned Jan. 17 and is free on recognizance bond, awaiting a Feb. 22 preliminary hearing before District Judge David Kovach.