TOPEKA, KAN. – A grand jury has returned an indictment charging a physician in Manhattan, Kan., with unlawfully distributing prescription drugs, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
Physician Michael Schuster, 53, who operates Manhattan Pain and Spine in Manhattan, Kan., is charged with four counts: One count of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances, one count of unlawful distribution of controlled substances, one count of unlawfully distributing controlled substances to a person under 21 years old and one count of maintaining a premises in furtherance of unlawful drug distribution.
The indictment alleges that Schuster employed unlicensed staff members who distributed controlled substances to patients using Schuster’s signature on prescriptions while he was traveling out of the state or out of the country. Schuster was out of the office when a total of 540 patients received prescriptions for medications including oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone, methadone, oxymorphone, tapentadol, fentanyl, amphetamine, methylphenidate, hydrocodone, alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam and zolpidem.
Schuster initially was charged in a criminal complaint filed April 23, 2013, in U.S. District Court in Topeka. According to an investigator’s affidavit, the investigation began early in 2012 when the Riley County Police Department received reports that Schuster was issuing prescriptions for high dosages of scheduled drugs based on minimal or cursory physical examinations.
The indictment returned today states that controlled substances may be dispensed and distributed lawfully by means of a prescription that is issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of professional practice. The practitioner must be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Signing a blank prescription and having unauthorized, unlicensed individuals who are not registered with the DEA distribute controlled substances is not a lawful prescription.
The indictment alleges Schuster routinely pre-signed blank prescription forms with the intent that his unlicensed staff members would use them to issue controlled substances to patients while he was not at the clinic.
Count 2 of the indictment alleges Schuster caused unlicensed staff using blank prescriptions to distribute controlled substances while he was out of the clinic at various locations including Russia, South Africa, Uruguay, Canada, New York, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Israel.
Count 3 alleges that on June 16, 2010, Schuster caused oxycodone to be distributed to a person under the age of 21, who is identified in the indictment as Rex V.
Count 4 alleges that from April 2007 to August 2012 Schuster knowingly maintained a premises, his office at 1135 Westport Drive in Manhattan, Kan., for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of all the proceeds from the crimes.
Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties:
Conspiracy: A maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. If death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.
Unlawful distribution of controlled substances: A maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. If death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.
Unlawful distribution of controlled substances to a person under 21 years old: A maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. If death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.
Maintaining drug involved premises: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000.
Investigating agencies include the Riley County Police Department; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Defense, Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS); the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations (DHS-HSI); and the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.