Jury convicts Craig doctor of overprescibing medication, killing patient
A Craig doctor faces up to life in prison after being found guilty of unlawfully prescribing controlled substances and causing the death of one of his patients, according to court documents.
Joel Miller, who practiced in Craig from 2008 to 2010 at High Country Medical, was indicted on 34 charges in August 2013, including health care fraud, money laundering and prescribing drugs without a legitimate medical purpose, state court documents.
Miller was accused of causing the death of two of his patients by prescribing opiates and benzodiazepines but was found responsible only in one of the deaths. The conviction marks the first “resulting in death” conviction by jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, according to the Department of Justice.
On Monday, the jury convicted Miller of six counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose, one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose resulting in death, and one count of giving false information to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The convictions carry a sentencing range of 20 years to life imprisonment.
“This doctor distributed narcotics to make money, not to help patients, and he killed a patient in the process. He testified at trial that he viewed his duty not to harm patients as ‘a PR thing,'” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh in a DOJ news release. “Thanks to enormous, tenacious effort by a group of skilled and dedicated law enforcement partners, his many victims now have some justice.”
Several officers from Craig Police Department provided testimony during the trial, including Investigator John Forgay, who investigated the death of one of Miller’s patients. Forgay said he is pleased with the conviction but could not comment on the proceedings because there is likely to be an appeal.
In addition to CPD, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, Routt County Sheriff’s the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the Internal Revenue Service, Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, were involved in this successful investigation and prosecution.
Moffat County Coroner Kirk McKey said he provided testimony on the autopsy report of one of the Miller’s patients where multiple drug intoxications was found to be the cause of death.
“Prescription drug abuse is at an epidemic level,” said DEA Denver Field Division Special Agent Barbara Roach in a DOJ news release “Those who would profit from the illegal distribution of these potentially very dangerous drugs will be held accountable. There is very little difference between “medical professionals” who engage in illegal distribution of prescriptions and street level drug dealers when the actions of both cost lives.”
On Nov. 16 the court will set a sentencing date for Dr. Miller.
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