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Vegas doctor gets 10 years in opioid pill mill conspiracy

August 02, 2017

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 93-year-old pain management doctor was sentenced Tuesday in Las Vegas to 10 years in prison for illegally writing prescriptions for oxycodone and other painkillers that ended up in the hands of drug addicts and dealers.

Dr. Henri Wetselaar, who was also fined $2.5 million, was accused of prescribing large amounts of opioids and other prescription drugs to people for no legitimate medial purpose while he maintained a practice in Las Vegas and performed house calls. A jury found him guilty earlier this year of drug and money laundering-related counts contained in an indictment against him, his medical assistant and a local pharmacist.

Wetselaar and medical assistant David Litwin prescribed large amounts of the drugs and directed people to a local pharmacy, where pharmacist Jason Smith filled the unnecessary prescriptions "knowing that they were going to be illegally diverted," according to the superseding indictment filed against the three men in 2015. The indictment states the trio conspired with local drug dealers to distribute the controlled substances in the Las Vegas area.

Wetselaar was born in the Netherlands and served in World War II. His defense team argued that his behavior reflected his age and outdated medical education, not a conspiracy to distribute painkiller pills. His attorney on Tuesday did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the sentencing.

Overdose rates from the use of opioids have increased in the U.S. during the past several years. President Donald Trump's drug commission on Monday called on him to declare a national emergency to deal with the country's opioid drug epidemic.

The commission sent an initial report to the Republican president saying the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is "equal to September 11th every three weeks."

Wetselaar was arrested in 2011 after the original indictment was filed. Authorities accused him of wiring $105,000 to buy a home using the proceeds resulting from the sale of drugs including oxycodone, hydrocodone, the anxiety medication Xanax and the muscle relaxant Soma.

Litwin was convicted of drug counts tied to the opioid conspiracy. He's scheduled to be sentenced next month.

U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson declared a mistrial in the case against Smith after jurors failed to return a verdict on a single count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. Dawson scheduled Smith's new trial for December.

AP

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