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"Pill mill" doctor Howard Weiss sentenced to 6 months prison, must surrender almost $1 million

A judge last week ordered a former Greenwood Village psychiatrist to spend six months in prison and pay almost $1 million in fines and restitution after illegally prescribing medications, some of which contributed to patients' deaths. 

Howard Weiss was indicted in 2021 after a patient was arrested in a drug deal. That patient, identified by his initials, S.P., in court documents, was caught three years earlier with 119 methamphetamine pills. The bottle of pills had Weiss's name on its prescription label. 

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Federal investigators learned Weiss knew that patient was a state parolee with a long history of drug addiction, per court documents. Nevertheless, Weiss continued to prescribe the man methamphetamine and alprazolam (better known by its trade name, Xanax) in return for cash.  

Moreso, that patient's parole officer begged Weiss to stop providing prescriptions for meth. But Weiss continued for years, according to a sentencing statement filed by federal prosecutors in May. 

Methamphetamine is approved by the Federal Drug Administration, but is a highly addictive substance normally reserved for prescription in very special cases.  

"Most psychiatrists will never prescribe it in the course of their careers," according to prosecutors.

Howard Weiss  Facebook

Prosecutors also identified four other patients - J.D., S.K, W.J. and P.K. - whose addictions were fed by Weiss for monetary gain. 

"Each of them, like S.P., had serious drug addictions nurtured by the defendant and his prescription practices," the sentencing statement reads. "Each died of poly-drug (multi-drug) overdoses that included drugs provided by the defendant."

RELATED: Colorado drug overdose deaths nearly double over last 4 years

In a March press release announcing Weiss's guilty plea, prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Colorado described how Weiss often prescribed drugs in dangerous combinations. 

"It is unusual to prescribe high-dose stimulants with high-dose sedatives because the drugs have competing effects," the press release states. "When these drugs are prescribed in concert, it is a good indication that the putative patient may be diverting one or both drugs rather than personally using them, or that one or both drugs are not medically necessary because of the competing effects of these drugs. Yet, the defendant routinely prescribed high-dose stimulants with high-dose sedatives. The defendant also regularly prescribed stimulants such as Adderall at the upper end of the usual dosing range and, sometimes, well beyond the upper end of the usual dosing range."

RELATED: Second Colorado library closes due to clean up meth contamination 

In the plea deal, Weiss also admitted to illegal banking practices. Banks, by federal law, are required to file reports when a single deposit of cash exceeds $10,000. Weiss thwarted detection by making 45 deposits just below that range, thus avoiding any red flags from the financial side of his activities.

"Bank tellers reported occasions in which the defendant would show up with a wad of cash, ask it to be counted, and then decline to deposit any amount more than $10,000," the press release stated. 

Tuesday, Weiss was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution, the money to be applied to a state victim agency designated to receive federal substance abuse block grant funds. The judge also demanded Weiss forfeit $826,083.24 from his bank accounts. The money was deemed "criminal proceeds." 

"The defendant ruined lives and fueled addiction. He knew that his actions were not just medically negligent or reckless, but wrong and knowingly and intentionally outside the course of professional practice," the sentencing statement reads. "Instead of a gold watch and the acclaim of his peers, the defendant will spend part of his forced retirement disgorging his illicit profits, providing restitution to the community, and serving several months in a federal prison. The defendant will never practice medicine again and his professional legacy has been forever tarnished. No rational professional should look at the consequences here and decide that the crime of knowingly and intentionally distributing drugs outside the course of professional medical practice is worth the risks."

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