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Kansas doctor sentenced to 5 years for illegally prescribing controlled substances to patients

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TOPEKA, Kansas — A Kansas physician who admitted allowing unlicensed staff members to distribute controlled substances at his pain clinic was sentenced Wednesday to five years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than half a million dollars in fines and forfeitures.

Michael P. Schuster, 54, of Manhattan, Kansas, pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances at his Manhattan Pain and Spine clinic from April 2007 to August 2012. In his plea, Schuster admitted allowing staff members to distribute drugs to his patients using blank prescription pads he had signed in advance.

Investigators documented about 540 patients who received prescriptions for controlled substances while Schuster was out of his office, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said, including while he was on trips to Canada, Russia, South Africa and several other foreign countries.

In addition to his five-year sentence, Schuster agreed to pay restitution of $100,772, a fine of $25,000 and a $400,000 money forfeiture judgment. He also agreed to forfeit his clinic building, a 2012 Ford pickup truck and more than $11,000 contained in two bank accounts.

He will surrender his medical license and can't re-apply for the license in Kansas, and he also will permanently lose his DEA registration number for prescribing controlled substances.

The investigation into Schuster began in early 2012 when the Riley County Police Department received reports that he was issuing prescriptions for high dosages of scheduled drugs based on minimal or cursory physical examinations, prosecutors said.

One of Schuster's clinic employees has been indicted on related charges and is awaiting trial.

Sarah Harding-Huffine, 29, was indicted in August by a grand jury for allegedly writing prescriptions for more than 20 people even though she is not a certified health care provider and is not licensed to do so. Prosecutors say she used blank prescription forms that were signed by Schuster.

Harding-Huffine is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs and one count of drug distribution. She is free on bail pending court proceedings.

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