A Tulsa doctor and two of his former employees were named in a multicount indictment unsealed in federal court Thursday, two years after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation of his practice and patient deaths.
Dr. Christopher V. Moses, 66, whose clinic has been linked to eight overdose deaths dating back to 2011, faces charges of drug conspiracy and unlawful drug distribution.
Moses and two employees at Southside Medical Clinic, 8222 S. Harvard Ave., Melisa D. Million and Kay Speir, made initial appearances before a magistrate in Tulsa federal court Thursday after being arrested earlier in the day.
Million, 49, and Speir, 54, were released on their own recognizance after their arraignment.
Moses was released, over the government’s objections, following a detention hearing.
“The opioid epidemic has taken a deadly toll on communities across our nation, including here in Oklahoma,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “As alleged in the indictment, Dr. Moses and his co-conspirators operated a ‘pill mill’ through which they distributed highly addictive opioids without a medical purpose.
“In fact, the United States has sought detention for Dr. Moses in this case because, in part, we believe he presents a danger to our community here in northern Oklahoma, where his alleged illegal prescribing actions resulted in three people dying from opioid-related overdoses.
“Make no mistake: My office will vigorously prosecute unscrupulous doctors and their cohorts who enrich themselves by illegally distributing opioids.”
In arguing for his release from custody, Phil Frazier, Moses’ attorney, said there was no evidence that his client was a flight risk or posed a danger to the community, noting that he hasn’t been practicing medicine since the January 2018 raid.
“This killed his medical practice,” Frazier said.
Moses and Speir face 12 counts of unlawful drug distribution, aiding and abetting, in addition to the conspiracy charge.
Million faces nine drug distribution, aiding and abetting counts, in addition to the conspiracy count.
The DEA has been investigating Moses, who operated Southside Medical, since at least September 2017 after receiving reports about his prescribing large amounts of prescription narcotics, according to an affidavit from DEA Special Agent Darren Glanz that was submitted to a judge in support of a search warrant application in January 2018.
Agents raided the doctor’s clinic that month as part of an investigation into alleged drug trafficking and diversion of controlled drugs, seizing 63 boxes of documents and four bags of computer hard drives.
According to Glanz, Moses prescribed about 2.1 million dosage units of controlled substances during a two-year period ending in January 2018, with half of the pills either oxycodone or hydrocodone.
Two undercover agents posing as patients reported receiving prescriptions from Moses for hydrocodone, oxycodone and other controlled drugs in 2017 after pretending to be in some sort of pain, according to the Glanz affidavit.
The undercover agents reported that Moses would enter the exam room with preprinted prescriptions for opioids. After visiting with Moses for a period as short as three minutes in some cases, the undercover agents said the physician would write a prescription for an opioid drug such as oxycodone, according to Glanz.
During one follow-up visit, according to the affidavit, Moses prescribed the undercover agent the opioid-reversing drug Narcan, too, telling the patient that people make stupid decisions with their medications and “we don’t want anybody dying because of the medication we wrote for them,” the affidavit says.
Moses’ most prolific day for writing prescriptions was Dec. 27, 2016, when the osteopathic physician wrote 179 prescriptions for fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone and other controlled substances, according to the affidavit.
Eight patient overdose deaths between 2011 and 2017 have been attributed to narcotic prescriptions written by Moses, according to Glanz.
DEA Special Agent Jami Cole testified during Moses’ detention hearing that three of the deaths were directly attributed to drugs prescribed by Moses.
The Oklahoma State Board of Osteopathic Examiners suspended Moses’ medical license in February 2018.
The board placed Moses on probation for five years in May 2018 after lifting his suspension. Moses was prohibited from prescribing controlled substances during the probation period, board officers said at the time.
Moses agreed to not practice medicine as a condition of his release on his own recognizance.