WICHITA, Kansas (CBS/AP/KWCH) A federal jury has found Kansas doctor Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, guilty of conspiring to profit from illegally prescribing painkillers to dozens of patients who later died.
Schneider and his wife were convicted Thursday of a moneymaking conspiracy prosecutors say was linked to 68 overdose deaths. They were directly charged in 21 of the deaths.
Prosecutors say the Schneiders ran a "pill mill," carelessly writing prescriptions for potent, addictive painkillers to people with severe pain but also to drug abusers who feigned symptoms.
Schneider testified he only tried to help chronic pain sufferers, but had been duped by some painkiller addicts. His wife didn't take the stand.
Along with conspiracy, the Schneiders were found guilty of five counts of unlawfully writing prescriptions and 11 charges of health care fraud. 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.
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.
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.
The government accused Schneider of being little more than a drug dealer who did not carefully monitor cases, prescribed excessive dosages and wrote prescriptions so freely he became known among some patients as the "Candy Man."
Prosecutors said the couple did not alter their practices even after getting notices their patients were turning up in emergency rooms and at the morgue following overdoses.
Testifying in his own defense, Schneider said he only was trying to help and had been duped by some painkiller addicts. He told jurors he never meant to hurt or defraud anyone.
Defense attorney Lawrence Williamson says it's not over. "It's a sad day when the justice system fails the ordinary citizen, he told CBS affiliate KWCH. "They're innocent but the fight is not over. Hopefully justice will be served at some point," Williamson said. The Schneiders' attorneys plan to seek the release of a doctor and his
wife in the U.S. state of Kansas while they appeal their convictions.
No date has been set for sentencing.