Silverthorne ‘pain doctor’ sentenced to 15 years for narcotic distribution
Senior U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane sentenced a Silverthorne man to 15 years in federal prison last week for conspiracy, distribution of a controlled substance and money laundering. Keith Schwartz, 47, opened a pain clinic in Metro Denver, prescribing large amounts of controlled substances that contributed to the deaths of three patients.
A jury convicted Schwartz on Oct. 24, 2014, after a 14-day trial following a May 2013 indictment by a federal grand jury. Schwartz will serve six years on supervised release following his sentence.
“For a fistful of dollars, defendant Schwartz stoked the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that is killing hundreds of Coloradans every year,” U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement. “The painful sentence Schwartz received in this case mirrors the pain and suffering that flowed directly from his criminal conduct.”
Over an 18-month period, Schwartz and conspirators prescribed more than a half-million dosage units of Oxycodone, an opioid painkiller. Taking over a pain-management practice in 2011, Schwartz conspired with Dr. Joseph Ferrara, who then wrote opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions to addicted patients, many of whom demonstrated no medical need for the drugs.
Many of the prescriptions exceeded recommended numbers; some were written for amounts up to four times the safe medical limit. Schwartz’s sentencing statement shows Ferrara wrote 392 dosages of opioids that March alone, 185 of which were written for Schwartz and a friend.
Schwartz and Ferrara originally met in the summer of 2009, when Schwartz posted a Craigslist ad looking for a doctor to help him expand his medical marijuana grow. The two started a medical marijuana business in Schwartz’s Silverthorne home on 700 Ptarmigan Road before expanding to travel across the state.
Later on, Schwartz looked to move from selling medical marijuana into selling narcotics, getting a list of patients from a pain doctor named Kevin Clemmer who was incarcerated in the Federal Detention Center in Englewood for unlawfully prescribing controlled substances. Starting their new narcotics business in a Holiday Inn in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, Schwartz took the role of owner, manager, organizer and operator of the business once they moved into a permanent office space.
Schwartz laundered the illegally obtained money by putting it in multiple corporations’ bank accounts under his wife’s name. Some of the funds were used to buy Schwartz’s $1.6 million Silverthorne home at 700 Ptarmigan Road out of foreclosure.
“In the Schwartz case, IRS CI focused its financial investigative resources on the money laundering activities,” Gilbert Garza, acting special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation said in a statement. “Thanks to IRS CI Special Agents, over $1,000,000 in assets was seized as part of the investigation, representing some of the defendant’s ill-gotten gains.”
Schwartz was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances, two counts of distribution and dispensing a controlled substance and aiding and abetting the same, four counts of use of a telephone to facilitate a drug crime, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 36 counts of money laundering. He was found not guilty of two counts of use of a telephone to facilitate a drug crime and two counts of money laundering.
“Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem in Colorado and those individuals that are responsible for the illegal and excessive distribution of prescription medicines need to be held accountable and brought to justice,” Barbra Roach, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Denver Field Division, said in a statement.
According to a 2013 report by Trust for America’s Health, 12.7 per 100,000 people die of drug overdose in Colorado, ranking the state 24th highest in drug overdose mortality rate.
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