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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane dentist faces federal charges for distribution of prescription drugs

UPDATED: Wed., June 27, 2018

Spokane dentist James S. Shelby faces a 31-count indictment in federal court alleging that he conspired and distributed prescription drugs. Last year, Shelby helped save the life of a man who was struck on his motorcycle at the corner of 11th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane dentist James S. Shelby faces a 31-count indictment in federal court alleging that he conspired and distributed prescription drugs. Last year, Shelby helped save the life of a man who was struck on his motorcycle at the corner of 11th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A longtime Spokane dentist, who last year saved the life of a man who had suffered a partially severed leg in a crash, has been named in a 31-count federal indictment charging him with conspiracy and distribution of prescription drugs during a three-year period ending in 2017.

Dr. James S. Shelby, whose license to practice remains active, was reached at his office at 3233 W. Indian Trail Road, where he was seeing patients on Wednesday.

“It’s very complicated,” Shelby said of the indictment, but referred further comment to his lawyer.

The indictment, filed June 19, charges Shelby with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and dozens of counts of distribution of hydrocodone and the synthetic opiod narcotic Tramadol. Each count carries a minimum of three years in federal prison and a maximum of 20 years and a $1 million fine.

Starting in the fall of 2014 through last November, Shelby wrote hundreds of prescriptions for highly-addictive hydrocodone and Tramadol to one unidentified individual and co-defendant Timothy J. Felch, according to court records.

Shelby’s lawyer, Kevin Curtis, was out of town Wednesday. But his firm, Winston & Cashatt, issued a statement indicating that Shelby is working with the federal investigators involved in the case.

“We are disappointed in the decision of the United States Attorney’s office to pursue criminal charges against Dr. Shelby,” the statement reads. “As a well-respected local dentist, Dr. Shelby has served our community for over 30 years.”

U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington could not immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.

Felch, the co-defendant, faces eight counts of distribution. He appeared on June 21 and pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rodgers. The court file does not reflect when Shelby is scheduled to appear in court.

According to the indictment, Shelby wrote 221 prescriptions to someone identified only as “M.B.” Those prescriptions totaled 12,406 tablets of hydrocodone, which is sold under the names Vicodin and Norco. He also prescribed the same person 63 prescriptions that contained 5,252 tablets of Tramadol, a synthetic opiod drug, which is commonly sold under the name Ultram.

Starting in December 2015, Shelby issued 41 prescriptions “for the use by M.B but in the name Defendant Felch” that totaled 2,116 tablets of hydrocodone. And then starting in December 2016 through October 2017, Shelby issued prescriptions for use by “M.B.” but in the names of two other individuals, identified only as “L.J.” and “D.B.” Those prescriptions included another 242 tablets of hydrocodone and 75 tablets of Tramadol, according to the indictment

When legally prescribed, both hydrocodone and Tramadol are used to treat moderate to severe short-term pain and both can be extremely habit forming.

The statement from Winston & Cashatt indicated that the charges should instead be “resolved through the dental licensing board.”

“Here, there are unique and complex circumstances surrounding his management of this particular patient,” the statement reads.

Last year, Shelby was credited with saving the life of Daniel “Dutch” Inwood, who on April 23 was struck by a hit-and-run driver at 11th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard in Spokane. The crash left Inwood with a partially severed leg and Shelby, who came upon the collision, helped stop Inwood’s bleeding.

That driver was later identified by Spokane Police as Leslie A. Hester, 34, who is scheduled to face a trial for felony hit-and-run on Oct. 22.

“Dr. Shelby has been cooperative with the Drug Enforcement Agency during this investigation and we remain hopeful this matter can be resolved in a just and appropriate manner,” the law firm statement reads. “We will not be making any additional statements at this time.”

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