June 21, 2007 in City

Indictment: Clinic gave abusers painkillers

Staff writer
 

A Deer Park physician and his aide are accused of giving known drug abusers prescription pain pills, including oxycodone and methadone, with the requirement they attend “recovery meetings” at a church.

Two drug addicts died after getting drugs prescribed by Dr. Keith Hindman, 67, and his physician assistant, Steven M. Featherkile, 60, who operated Foundation Medical Clinic in Deer Park, a federal indictment returned Wednesday alleges.

One of those patients, identified only as “B.B.,” died in 2002 after getting a methadone prescription from Hindman, who is charged with 13 counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.

Because a death was involved, he faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

As part of the same scheme, the defendants cheated Medicaid and insurance companies out of $2.5 million, authorities say.

The money was reimbursement for prescription payments to some patients who resold their drugs for as much as $50 a pill on the streets, authorities say.

“This case has broad-reaching impacts on numerous individuals, as well as health insurance programs,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington.

The 24-count indictment alleges the conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances lasted from 2001 to 2005, when an investigation began, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice.

As part of the case, investigators served search warrants in September 2005 at the medical clinic, at Hindman’s home in Deer Park and at a storage unit Hindman rented. Computer equipment and business records were among items seized.

The investigation was conducted by FBI and DEA Diversion Unit agents working with investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the state Department of Health and the Spokane Police Department.

Spokane police got involved after some of the legal drugs – methadone and oxycodone – prescribed at the Deer Park clinic started showing up in the hands of street-level drug dealers, authorities said.

Some patients would make weekly visits to Hindman, a doctor of osteopathy who operated a clinic at 855 S. Main in Deer Park, where Featherkile worked as a physician assistant. Hindman would bill various insurance carriers and benefit financially from those visits, according to the indictment.

Patients seeking “pain treatment” from Hindman and Featherkile were given prescriptions for methadone and oxycodone – drugs that ended up being sold as street drugs to teenagers and others, authorities say.

The indictment includes 10 counts of health care fraud, accusing Hindman and Featherkile of “knowingly and willfully” devising a scheme to defraud health care benefit programs and insurance companies.

Neither Hindman nor Featherkile is in custody. The status of their state medical licenses couldn’t be confirmed Wednesday, but one official said state authorities are moving for suspension for both.

They are expected to voluntarily surrender for initial appearances on July 11 in U.S. District Court.

“In conjunction with the Foundation Medical Clinic, Hindman and Featherkile also maintained a Sunday evening program known as ‘Celebrate Recovery’ at a church in Deer Park,” the indictment says.

“Celebrate Recovery” was a weekly group counseling program that met at Tri-County Christian Church.

The counseling program “was maintained for Foundation Medical Clinic patients who were abusing their prescription narcotics and-or were using illegal substances,” the indictment says.


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