MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- A pain clinic in Manhattan is closing at the end of the month after authorities exposed an alleged pill mill and arrested the doctor in charge. The federal government says illegal practices went on at the establishment for more than five years.
Manhattan Pain & Spine on Westport Drive will be closing May 31, 2013, staff members confirmed.
Yesterday, the physician who operates the clinic was indicted by a federal grand jury. He is accused of illegally distributing prescription medications.
Michael Schuster, 53, 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 of unlawful drug distribution.
The indictment alleges that Schuster employed unlicensed staff members who distributed controlled substances to patients using his signature on prescriptions while he was traveling out of the state or out of the country.
According to the government, their investigation found that 542 patients received prescriptions for medications including painkillers and antidepressants when Schuster was out of the office.
Schuster was arrested last week; his license indefinitely suspended and his office raided by federal agents.
According to the indictment, he would pre-sign blank prescription pads that his staff would use to issue medications when he traveled.
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.
The investigation into the practices at Schuster's clinic 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 and allowing for "early refills" of the medications.
Authorities say as a result, several patients overdosed. The FBI spoke to several doctors on Fort Riley who reported that several active duty soldiers and their families members who died from overdoses were Schuster's patients. Fort Riley has declined to comment further on the deaths, saying only that they are cooperating with the investigation.
In his indictment it states that "from April 2007 to August 2012 Schuster knowingly maintained" his clinic "for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances." Federal prosecutors have revealed that Schuster has several passports, a house in Paraguay and more than $1 million overseas.
He remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Service. A detention hearing is set for May 7, 2013 to determine whether he can be released from custody as he waits for the conclusion of his case in court.
On his charges of Conspiracy, Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substance and Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances to a Person Under 21 Years Old, Schuster faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million if convicted. If death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.
On the charge of Maintaining Drug Involved Premises, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000 if convicted.