Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kan doctor, wife sentenced in 'pill mill' case

Kan. doctor, wife sentenced in 'pill mill' case
The Associated Press
Oct. 20, 2010

WICHITA, Kan. — A Kansas doctor who ran a clinic linked to dozens of overdose deaths was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison while his wife got 33 years in a case the judge said was an "avoidable tragedy motivated by greed."

Dr. Stephen Schneider looked grim and his wife blinked back tears as their sentences were pronounced in U.S. District Court in Wichita.

The Haysville couple were convicted in June of unlawfully writing prescriptions, health care fraud and money laundering. Jurors convicted them of a moneymaking conspiracy that prosecutors linked to 68 overdose deaths.

U.S. District Judge Monti Belot told the 57-year-old physician that the evidence showed that he earned and deserved the nickname "Schneider the Writer" because in many cases writing scripts was his only form of medical care.

"For whatever reason, Steven Schneider utterly failed to live up to his oath to 'do no harm,'" Belot said.

The judge said the doctor was put on every possible notice that the controlled substances he was prescribing — particularly the potent painkiller Actiq — was addicting, harming and killing his patients but did nothing to stop it.

Belot reserved some of his most scathing comments for Linda Schneider, 52, who he characterized as more culpable for creating and perpetuating the clinic as a generator of income rather than a place for competent medical care. He blamed the doctor for knowing that the clinic was mismanaged and doing nothing to stop the practice.

"Had she not been involved in the operation of the clinic, or had she approached her role there in a professional and responsible way, none of us would be here today," Belot said. "That doesn't excuse Stephen Schneider's wrongful acts, but it may somewhat explain them."

Besides conspiracy, the Schneiders were found guilty on five counts of unlawfully writing prescriptions and 11 health care fraud counts. Linda Schneider was found guilty of 15 money laundering charges while Stephen Schneider was convicted of two.

Although the doctor has no criminal record, his wife has a previous felony conviction for fraud.

"I believe the evidence has shown Linda Schneider is a scheming, manipulative, uncaring criminal who believed, erroneously, that she was smart enough to 'get away with it,'" Belot said. "A big mistake on her part."...

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