TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – A Kansas doctor charged with operating a pill mill out of his Manhattan clinic that was popular among police officers and Fort Riley soldiers made a brief court appearance Tuesday and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Federal authorities say Michael P. Schuster issued prescriptions for painkillers and antidepressants after putting patients through cursory examinations. They say several patients overdosed, including an unspecified number of soldiers and soldiers’ family members.
The 53-year-old doctor, clad in an orange smock and pants, said little during the brief court appearance. He was joined by his attorney, Thomas Bath, who declined to comment about the case following the hearing.
Magistrate Judge Gary Sebelius set Schuster’s detention hearing for May 7. Schuster remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service. A federal grand jury was expected to consider the government’s case against Schuster on Wednesday.
The charges were filed April 23, the same day FBI agents searched Schuster’s Manhattan Spine and Pain clinic. Schuster is a 1982 graduate of Stavropol State Medical Academy in Russia and was previously known as Mikhail Pavlovich Shusterov.
Schuster’s wife, Janet, sat behind her husband in court. He whispered “I love you” and “be strong” to her.
The investigation into Schuster’s clinic began in 2012 when the Riley County Police Department told federal prosecutors that Schuster was issuing a lot of prescriptions for controlled substances following only minimal physical exams. Prosecutors allege that many of those drugs wound up being peddled on the street.
Officials with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Riley have declined to comment about the case, citing the ongoing investigation.
Authorities allege in the criminal complaint that Schuster was the only person in his office authorized to prescribe controlled substances, but that 542 patients received prescriptions for drugs including the painkillers oxycodone and morphine while he wasn’t there. They say he left signed but otherwise blank prescription forms behind when he was away, including during trips to Russia, South Africa and Uruguay.
Prosecutors also allege that he has assets of more than $1 million outside the U.S., including a home in Paraguay. Government attorneys said that the foreign assets and the fact Schuster had two passports made him a flight risk.
The Kansas Board of Healing Arts on Thursday indefinitely suspended Schuster’s medical license. Schuster has also surrendered his Drug Enforcement Agency license to prescribe controlled substances.
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