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Pain doc waives right to hearing

By Katherine Wartell

The Manhattan physician accused of running a pill mill at his local clinic waived his right to a preliminary hearing in federal court Tuesday and will remain in custody pending a detention hearing rescheduled for May.

Michael Schuster, 53, who operates Manhattan Pain and Spine, 1135 Westport Drive, is charged with one count of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances. Court papers also indicate he could be linked to several overdoses, including those of Fort Riley soldiers and their families.

Schuster appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Gary Sebelius Tuesday morning with his counsel, Tom Bath. Though Schuster has already been charged through a criminal complaint, a grand jury will meet, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway said, to determine if there is probable cause in the case. Treadway said the grand jury eliminates the need for a preliminary hearing.

According to the criminal complaint against him, Schuster authorized unlicensed staff members to distribute painkillers and antidepressants to 542 patients, using blank prescriptions with his signature, while Schuster was out of the country.

He is the only physician employed at the office and the only person licensed to prescribe drugs, officials said, though the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts indefinitely suspended his medical license last week.

Tuesday’s hearing was originally scheduled to determine if Schuster should be kept in custody until his trial after prosecutors argued in his first appearance that Schuster is a flight-risk, saying he has sufficient financial resources overseas, a home in Paraguay and two passports.

Bath requested a continuation of the hearing so both sides could have additional time to gather needed information. It was rescheduled for May 7.

If convicted in federal court, Schuster faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million.

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