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Jury convicts man of running ‘pill mills’

CINCINNATI — A United States District Court jury convicted Christopher Stegawski, 65, of Cleveland, of conspiracy to distribute and dispense prescription drugs, namely oxycodone in clinics including one in South Point.

A jury convicted Stegawski of one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense prescription drugs, one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of maintaining a place for illegal distribution of drugs.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine; Kathy Enstrom, special agent in charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS), A.J. Groeber, executive director of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy; and Steven W. Schierholt, executive director, State Medical Board of Ohio announced the verdict reached Friday, which was returned following a trial that began on Feb. 5 before U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett.

Conspiracy to distribute and dispense prescription drugs carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine; maintaining a place for the purpose of distributing carries a maximum of 20 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine; money laundering is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Stegawski also faces potential forfeiture of a money judgment in his case.

Stegawski was indicted by a grand jury on May 16, 2012, charging him and co-defendant John Randy Callihan in an 11-count indictment. Callihan pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to distribute and dispense prescription drugs and money laundering.

The plea agreement calls for a 60-month term of imprisonment, a fine to be based on the income of the clinics and a $200 mandatory special assessment.

According to court testimony, beginning about November 2009 until May 2012, Stegawski worked at a business initially known as Eastside Medical Specialist in Dayton. In February 2010, the business moved to Lucasville and the name was changed to Lucasville Medical Specialist. Stegawski took over the ownership of Lucasville Medical Specialist and listed his partner and co-conspirator, John Randy Callihan, as an employee.

Stegawski represented himself as a chronic pain management doctor at these clinics and an unnamed clinic located in South Point. The clinics operated as “pill mills” by selling prescriptions for controlled substances, primarily oxycodone, without a legitimate need for the prescriptions. There was no valid doctor-patient relationship and many of the prescriptions were openly sold and diverted.

Stegawski had a DEA registration number that allowed him to order controlled substances for the clinics. Stegawski received a medical degree in Warsaw, Poland, in 1977 and was purportedly trained to specialize in anesthesiology.

As many as 40 patients would visit the clinics each weekday. In some cases, customers traveled in excess of 200 miles roundtrip to obtain prescriptions from the doctor. Stegawski knowingly prescribed large amounts of prescription drugs to drug abusers and addicts, who were charged $200 cash per visit and received at most a cursory examination.

During the tenure of the pain clinics, many local pharmacies refused to honor any prescriptions written by Stegawski due to the “large quantities of narcotics” and his “catering to customers with prior drug abuse and arrest histories.”

“A majority of the patients interviewed admitted they had no legitimate pain to be prescribed the narcotics,” Criminal Chief Kenneth L. Parker told the court. “They were only going to the pain clinics to easily obtain prescriptions because they were addicted to pain pills, or because they were drug dealers themselves, selling the prescription pills on the street.”

Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by agents and officers of the agencies named above including IRS Special Agent Robert Mullins, Ohio Board of Pharmacy Agent Jesse Wimberly, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Attorney General DeWine’s Office, the DEA, the Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless and the county’s drug task force, Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini, and the Riverside Police Department, as well as Criminal Chief Kenneth L. Parker and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy D. Oakley, who prosecuted the case.