Manhattan doctor indicted for illegally prescribing drugs to 542 patients

By Katherine Wartell

Federal charges were brought against a Manhattan physician Tuesday for allegedly prescribing drugs unlawfully to more than 500 patients. The charges came after FBI agents searched his offices Tuesday morning.

Michael Schuster, 53, who operates Manhattan Pain and Spine, 1135 Westport Drive, is charged with one count of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances.

The criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Topeka 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.

The indictment alleges that Schuster was out of the office when a total of 542 patients received prescriptions for medications including oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, fentanyl, amphetamine salts, tapentadol, methadone, methylphenidate, hydrocodone, diazepam, alprazolam, zolpidem titrate and clonazepam.

According to an investigator’s affidavit, the investigation began in early 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. As a result, several patients had overdosed on their medications and Riley County Police were investigating the diversion of prescription drugs.

Officials said that physicians and hospital staff at Fort Riley voiced concerns to the Army Criminal Investigative Division that active duty soldiers and family members who died from overdoses were patients of Schuster.

Investigators examined records indicating Schuster prescribed unusually high dosages of scheduled narcotics despite questionable medical necessity and allowed his patients to get early refills of controlled substances.

The affidavit states that in order to prescribe controlled substances in a legal manner a physician must meet with a patient to determine that the medication being prescribed is for a legitimate medical purpose. Only licensed health care professionals including physicians and physician assistants can lawfully issue prescriptions for controlled substances.

Investigators documented various prescriptions bearing Schuster’s signature while he was on trips to Russia, South Africa, Uruguay, Canada, New York, Chile, Argentina, and Israel.

If convicted, Schuster faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. Officials said if death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.

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) all contributed to the investigation.

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