Former Fort Mohave doctor faces life in prison
CASPER, Wyo. — A former Fort Mohave doctor could spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of distribution of prescription drugs.
A jury at the federal courthouse in Casper, Wyoming, found Shakeel Kahn guilty of all 21 charges at the end of a month-long trial. Kahn was convicted of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances resulting in death, and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. According to sentencing guidelines, both of those charges carry a minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum of life in prison.
Kahn also was found guilty of eight counts of unlawful distribution or dispensing of oxycodone, five counts of using a telephone to commit or facilitate a felony drug crime, three counts of aiding or abetting the possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, two counts of money laundering and one count of possession of a firearm in futherance of a federal drug trafficking crime.
Nabeel Kahn, Kahn’s brother, was convicted of one count of conspiracy and one firearms charge.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled Aug. 1 at the federal courthouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Kahn’s wife, Lyn, testified for the prosecution at the trial in Casper. She recently pleaded guilty to one count of drug distribution conspiracy in connection with the case.
The prosecution argued that Kahn and co-conspirators profited financially from the distribution of prescriptions.
According to evidence entered into the trial, Kahn wrote nearly 15,000 prescriptions for controlled substances between 2011 and the end of 2016. Those prescriptions totaled nearly 2.2 million pills; nearly half of those pills were oxycodone, an opioid pain reliever.
The most serious charge was in connection with the death of Jessica Burch, of Lake Havasu City, who died from an overdose in 2015. Anthony Varagas, Burch’s boyfriend, testified at the trial that he and Burch were patients of Kahn’s at his Fort Mohave clinic.
Before Kahn was charged with any crimes, the Arizona Medical Board suspended his Arizona medical license in August 2016 for “unprofessional conduct,” finding that Kahn “deviated from the standard of care by increasing dosages of patients’ opioid medications without appropriate justification. ...”
Kahn was arrested in Wyoming in November of 2016 on a warrant drawn by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, based on a complaint from the Wyoming Board of Pharmacy. In the affidavit for the warrant, a DEA agent stated that some of Kahn’s patients were filling prescriptions each month in both Wyoming and Arizona, obtaining “substantial quantities of the drugs in each state.”
At least one patient was charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, suggesting that prescription medications were distributed and, in turn, sold illegally.
Federal prosecutor Stephanie Hambrick said Kahn wrote prescriptions in exchange for guns and cash, and falsified medical records to cover up the conspiracy. Co-counsel Stephanie Sprecher told the Casper Star-Tribune that Kahn “preyed on” addicted people for years.
Kahn testified in his defense, claiming that he tried to operate his pain clinics in Arizona and Wyoming in the best interest of his patients and that his treatment methods were medically appropriate.
At a Friday news conference following the verdict, Sprecher told reporters that, to the best of her knowledge, Kahn was the first doctor convicted in federal court of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.
“This prosecution should serve as a warning to anyone who may be tempted to abuse that prescribing authority,” said U.S. Attorney Matt Klaassen. Klaasen participated in the news conference by telephone from Cheyenne. “We simply can’t tolerate those who exploit people with addictions to enrich themselves.”
The Casper Star-Tribune and the Associated Press contributed to this report.