Wichita A Kansas doctor and his wife whose clinic is linked to dozens of overdose deaths have asked a federal judge to sentence them today to the mandatory minimum 20 years in prison, rather than the life sentences sought by prosecutors.
A court document filed Saturday by defense attorneys in the case of Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, argues unduly harsh sentences are likely to discourage doctors to prescribe controlled drugs for fear their patients will mislead them or not use medications as directed.
The defense also argued excessive sentences would deter other physicians from accepting government-sponsored insurance that involves complex billing procedures fraught with human error.
The defense argued that the sentencing guidelines were intended to punish drug dealers who traffic on the street in heroin and crack cocaine, substances which have no medical purpose.
A federal jury in June found the Haysville couple guilty of unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering following a nearly eight-week trial. Jurors convicted them of a moneymaking conspiracy that prosecutors linked to 68 overdose deaths.
In addition to conspiracy, 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 contends losses for clinic services and prescriptions was more than $20 million, with some 93 insurance programs and more than 500 patients defrauded.
In seeking the life sentences, prosecutors had noted in an earlier filing that jurors found the Schneiders’ conduct resulted in serious bodily injury to 14 individuals, and the deaths of 10 patients. Prosecutors argued that if this had been a serial murder case instead of a drug dispensing and health care fraud case, there would be no question that life sentences should be imposed.