GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (CBS4/AP) — A Craig doctor accused of improperly dispensing drugs that led to the deaths of two patients has been found guilty in the death of one of the patients and various other charges.
Dr. Joel Miller on Monday was convicted on 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 providing false information on his Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration application.
According to U.S. Attorney John Walsh, Miller tried to defraud health care benefits programs by prescribing painkillers to patients who didn’t necessarily need them at dosages that could cause someone to become addicted.
“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'”, Walsh said in a statement. “Thanks to enormous, tenacious effort by a group of skilled and dedicated law enforcement partners, his many victims now have some justice.”
Miller was also accused of pre-signing prescriptions and allowing office employees to distribute prescriptions in his absence.
The U.S. attorney’s office painted a picture of Miller as a violent and dangerous drug dealer, saying that several years ago he stopped acting as a doctor and acted as a drug pusher, and his office was just actually a “pill mill.”
“Prescription drug abuse is at an epidemic level,” said Barbra Roach, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver Field Division. “Those who would profit from the illegal distribution of these potentially very dangerous drugs will be held accountable. The question must be asked — what is the difference between these individuals and street level drug dealers when the actions of both cost lives?”
The investigation into Miller had been going on for several years and he hasn’t practiced medicine since August of 2012. On the witness stand a deputy from Moffatt County said he had been approached by several people in the medical community urging an investigation into Miller’s prescription habits.
Testimony in court in 2013 also alleged Miller is a drug abuser himself.
Miller’s is the first “resulting in death” conviction by jury trial in the District of Colorado. He faces 20 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced next Monday.
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