TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Manhattan physician busted for illegally distributing prescription medications has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
A grand jury returned an indictment Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
Michael Schuster, 53, who operates Manhattan Pain & Spine on Westport Drive in Manhattan, 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.
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.
The U.S. Attorney's Office broke down the penalties for each of the crimes Schuster is charged with:
Conspiracy: A maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. If death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.
Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances: A maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. If death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.
Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances to a Person Under 21 Years Old: A maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. If death or bodily injury results from the crime, the penalty is not less than 20 years.
Maintaining Drug Involved Premises: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000.