Wichita A federal jury Thursday found a Kansas doctor and his wife guilty of conspiring to profit from illegally prescribing painkillers to dozens of patients who later died, in a case highlighting medical treatment of chronic pain sufferers and prescription drug abuse.
Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, were charged in a 34-count indictment with unlawful dispensing of drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. Jurors convicted them of a moneymaking conspiracy that prosecutors linked to 68 overdose deaths. They were directly charged in 21 of the deaths.
During their eight-week trial, prosecutors told jurors the Schneiders defrauded insurers and patients by carelessly writing prescriptions for potent, addictive painkillers to people with severe pain but also to drug abusers who feigned symptoms.
The Schneiders also were found guilty on five counts of unlawfully writing prescriptions and 11 health care fraud counts. They also faced 17 money laundering counts. Stephen Schneider was found guilty on two of those counts; Linda Schneider was found guilty of 15 money laundering charges. The government is also seeking forfeiture of their assets, but it will be up to the judge to later decide the amount.
No date has been set for sentencing. They face up to a life sentence, with the most serious counts carrying a minimum of 20 years in prison.
“The evidence in this case of patients suffering from overdose and death points to the fact that when prescription pain killers are unlawfully prescribed, they can be as dangerous as illegal drugs,” U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch said in a statement.
Schneider, 56, operated the Schneider Medical clinic in the Wichita suburb of Haysville. Linda Schneider, 52, is a nurse who worked as the clinic’s office manager.