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Grand jury returns Schuster indictment

By Katherine Wartell

Additional charges were filed Wednesday against the Manhattan physician accused of authorizing illegal prescriptions to hundreds of patients.

Michael Schuster, 53, who operates Manhattan Pain and Spine, is now charged with 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 premise in furtherance of unlawful drug distribution.

The grand jury convened to return the indictment after Schuster waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

Schuster was arrested on April 23 following an FBI raid at his clinic at 1135 Westport Drive and originally charged with one count of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances following a criminal complaint against him.

Authorities have indicated that Schuster could be tied to several overdoses, of his patients, some resulting in death, including Fort Riley soldiers and their families.

Wednesday’s indictment alleges that Schuster employed unlicensed staff members who distributed controlled substances to 540 patients using Schuster’s signature on prescriptions while he was traveling out of the state or out of the country.

It also alleges that in 2010, Schuster authorized the distribution of oxycodone to a person younger than 21 and that between April 2007 and August 2012 he knowingly maintained a clinic for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of all the proceeds from the crimes.

According to an affidavit, filed by an FBI investigator, Schuster, the only employee at his clinic with a Drug Enforcement Administration license, left pre-signed prescription pads that his unlicensed staff members could use. Schuster surrendered that license after officers arrested him.

The investigation into his office began in 2012 after the Riley County Police Department received reports that Schuster was issuing prescriptions based on cursory physical examinations. According to the affidavit, the department also dealt with patients selling the prescription drugs on the street.

Schuster is being temporarily held in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending a detention hearing rescheduled for Tuesday. That hearing will determine whether Schuster is a flight-risk and should be held in custody until his trial.

He reportedly has $1 million in financial resources overseas, a home in Paraguay and two passports. He was arrested at the Manhattan Regional Airport, though authorities have declined to comment on why he was there.

Two days after his arrest, state regulators with the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts indefinitely suspended his medical license.

If convicted, the penalties for conspiracy, unlawful distribution of a controlled substance and unlawful distribution to a person under 21 are a maximum of 20 years and a fine up to $1 million. The penalty for maintaining drug-involved premises is a maximum of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000.

Schuster is represented by attorneys Barry Clark and Thomas Bath, who have not commented on the case.

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