Manhattan Doctor's License Suspended After Alleged Pill Mill Exposed

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- The doctor at the center of a massive federal investigation into the practices at his Manhattan pain clinic has had his license suspended by the state.

The executive director of the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts issued an order Thursday indefinitely suspending the license of Dr. Michael Schuster, 53.

The measure was taken two days after a joint raid at Schuster's Manhattan Pain & Spine clinic, located on Westport Drive, for being a suspected pill mill.

As authorities swarmed his pain clinic, Schuster was arrested at the Manhattan Regional Airport. The FBI won’t elaborate on what Schuster was doing there when he was taken into custody.

Schuster is charged with one count of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances.

A 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 federal government alleges that Schuster was out of the office when a total of 542 patients received prescriptions for medications including painkillers and antidepressants.

In the affidavit from the FBI agent on the case, it states Schuster would sign blank prescription pads that his staff would use to issue medications when he traveled.

He was the only person in the office with a DEA registration number to prescribe controlled substances, the agent said. Records indicate that he's been licensed to practice medicine and surgery in the state of Kansas since January 31. 2004.

Red flags were raised by local pharmacists who called his office with questions after receiving prescriptions with his signature that were "early"- meaning that they had been issued prior to the expiration of the normal 30 days between prescriptions, given the frequency the drugs were to be taken- only to be informed that Schuster was out of the office traveling.

“During these interviews, I learned of Dr. Schuster’s pattern and practice of using unlicensed staff members to issue prescriptions to patients at times when he was not present in Kansas, let alone his clinic,” the FBI agent wrote in the document.

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.

Manhattan pharmacies were notified not to fill prescriptions from his clinic

The 14-page affidavit goes on to state findings from interviews with Fort Riley physicians and local area pharmacies, including allegations that Dr. Schuster prescribed unusually high dosages of narcotics “despite questionable medical necessity;” allowed patients to get early refills and had a tendency to attract patients suspected of selling their pills on the street.

According to an affidavit from the FBI agent on the case, the investigation 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. As a result, several patients had overdosed on their medications and Riley County Police were investigating the diversion of prescription drugs. Simultaneously, physicians and hospital staff at Fort Riley voiced concerns to Army Criminal Investigative Division that active duty soldiers and family members who died from overdoses were Schuster's patients.

Fort Riley Public Affairs officials declined to release information about the reported deaths involving soldiers and their family members, saying only that the installation is "supporting" the investigation, calling the probe "a community concern."

If convicted, he faces 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. Schuster made his first appearance Wednesday, April 24, 2013 in federal court in Wichita. He entered a plea of not guilty.

A bond was not set by the magistrate judge after federal prosecutors described the doctor as a flight risk. They said Schuster has more than $1 million outside the United States, a home in Paraguay and two passports.

The judge ordered Dr. Schuster to be held in custody pending a hearing at 10 AM Tuesday, April 30 in federal court in Topeka. The hearing will determine whether Schuster can be released from custody as he awaits trial.

Schuster, previously known as Mikhail Pavlovich Shusterov, is a 1982 graduate of Stavropol State Medical Academy in Russia. Around March 2004, he moved from the northeast to accept a position at Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan and eventually opened his own practice nearby.

Calls to Schuster's attorney, Barry Clark of Manhattan, have not been returned.

Schuster voluntarily surrendered his DEA license on April 23rd- the day of his arrest -and it was suspended two days later. The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts cited some of the alleged findings from the criminal investigation in their order.


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