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Prison-bound doctor dies

Coroner’s officials cite history of drug abuse from 62-year-old who pleaded guilty to writing illegal prescriptions.

July 03, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BURBANK — A North Hollywood pain management doctor awaiting a two-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to writing illegal prescriptions was found dead last weekend in his Burbank home, police said.

Dr. Bernard Bass, 62, was discovered dead at 5:28 p.m. Sunday in the 800 block of East Andover Drive, Burbank Police Sgt. Thor Merich said.

The case is being investigated, but police said they do not suspect foul play.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office Thursday confirmed Bass’ body was requested from the funeral home for an examination, toxicology analysis and autopsy, the results of which are expected in four to six weeks.

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“There were indications of a history of drug abuse and possible suicide,” said John Kades, an investigator with the coroner’s office.

Bass, who prosecutors believe took cash in exchange for writing hundreds of mostly pain killer prescriptions to patients, seven of whom died, pleaded guilty in May in a Ventura County courtroom to conspiracy to write fraudulent prescriptions.

Bass’ attorney at the time said the doctor felt terrible about the deaths — four of which occurred last year — but that he was not to blame.

Although Bass was not charged in connection with the seven deaths, his sentencing was scheduled for July 31 in Ventura County Superior Court.

From his North Hollywood clinic, which Burbank police said drew patients from throughout the county, Bass illegally wrote and backdated hundreds of prescriptions even after surrendering his license.

“The guy was prolific,” said Merich, formerly of the department’s narcotics unit. “He was very careful, though. He only sold to people he knew.”

Because the police presence in Burbank tends to outnumber that of surrounding cities, drug users have a tendency to re-up in neighboring municipalities, he said.

“His name popped up all the time,” Merich said. “When we arrested people in Burbank who had a large quantity of pills on them, at least a few said they got them from Dr. Bass.”

Ryan Wright, senior deputy district attorney, referred to the clinic as a “pill mill,” adding that patients were hardly questioned before being granted prescriptions.

The case against Bass will be dismissed.

Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, said she could not comment about the doctor.

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