Federal grand jury indicts Kansas doctor in prescription drug case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal grand jury has returned a four-count indictment against a Kansas physician accused of unlawfully distributing prescription drugs, the U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday.

Michael Schuster of Manhattan was indicted Wednesday on one count each of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances, drug distribution, unlawfully distributing drugs to a person under 21 years old and using and maintaining a premise for drug distribution. Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of money and property linked to the crimes.

Schuster's attorneys didn't immediately respond to phone or email messages left Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The 53-year-old doctor was initially charged April 23 in a criminal complaint that linked his clinic to drug overdoses by active-duty Fort Riley soldiers, according to a document which included an affidavit by an FBI agent saying Fort Riley physicians and hospital staff had voiced concerns to military investigators about several overdose deaths of active-duty soldiers and family members.

But the 29-page indictment handed down by the grand jury Wednesday does not allege any overdose deaths, nor does it make any specific reference to soldiers.

Schuster, who operates the Manhattan Pain and Spine clinic in Manhattan, Kan., remains jailed pending a detention hearing Tuesday. The Kansas Board of Healing Arts has indefinitely suspended his medical license. Schuster also has surrendered his Drug Enforcement Agency license to prescribe controlled substances.

The grand jury alleged that beginning on April 2007 until at least August 2012, Schuster engaged in a scheme to unlawfully distribute controlled substances. The indictment accuses him of directing and allowing staff members to dispense controlled substances using blank prescription pads he left behind signed while he traveled.  He employed between eight to 12 staff members, none of which were licensed to write prescriptions.

The government contends prescriptions from his clinic were issued to about 540 patients while Schuster was traveling out of Kansas or the country. The indictment includes more than 12 pages detailing prescriptions issued while the doctor was of out of the country.

Most of the unlawful prescriptions cited in the indictment were for Oxycodone, although some also included morphine, Hydrocodone, and other controlled substances. The count related to distributing drugs to a person under age 21 involved prescriptions for Oxycodone and Oxycontin prescribed while he was in Canada.

The government also is seeking an unspecified money judgment equal to the proceeds he obtained from unlawful prescriptions as well as the forfeiture of his Manhattan clinic, bank accounts, vehicles and medical licenses.

Schuster, previously known as Mikhail Pavlovich Shusterov, is a 1982 graduate of Stavropol State Medical Academy in Russia. In 2004, he moved from the New York area to accept a position at Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan. He eventually opened his own practice in Mahattan.

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