Financial woes set Eagle doctor on the road to prison

In the end, it was all about money.

Michael Minas threw away his reputation as a respectable and caring Eagle physician for $100 a patient in cash.

For that, he prescribed nearly 20,000 doses of oxycodone, a powerful painkiller that often leads to abuse and sales on the black market.

“That’s the most dangerous, most addictive, most powerful pain medication you can prescribe,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Maloney said during sentencing Thursday.

Minas was ordered to spend eight years in federal prison, following his conviction on 80 counts of distributing prescription painkillers to patients without a legitimate medical purpose. Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge also placed him on five years of supervised release once he leaves prison.

Lodge told Minas he was disappointed in him for causing a number of his patients to become addicted to oxycodone and other prescription painkillers.

“Doctors must be part of the solution, not the source of the problem,” Lodge said.

Under federal sentencing guidlines, Minas could have been sent to prison for roughly 12 to 15 years. But Lodge said losing his career and his reputation were strong penalties, and that nothing would be accomplished by making Minas spent a longer stretch in prison.

Maloney described how Minas went from a doctor beloved by patients — because he spent ample time to get at the root of their problems — to someone who took in new patients that were so sketchy even his office workers knew they were coming in just for a prescription fix. He said Minas would accept any excuse in the book to hand out a new 30-day prescription 10 or 20 days after issuing the last one.

“He knew with medical certainty the dangers of the substances he prescribed,” Maloney said. “The defendant was motivated by the money.”

Defense attorney C. Tom Arkoosh said Minas had gone through several traumatic events in a very short time: He got divorced, filed for bankruptcy, had his garage burn down and got bit by a dog.

Minas, Arkoosh said, regrets harming some of his patients. But the doctor also continued helping other patients who had been with him for years and who praised his treatment of them, Arkoosh said.

He said his client denied intending to have the painkillers he prescribed enter the black market.

“I don’t think he was paying attention to his practice,” Arkoosh said.

Minas, in addressing the judge, said his efforts fell short.

“It was never my intent to operate in an illegal manner,” Minas said. “There’s not a day where I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of remorse.”

Lodge also fined Minas $80,000 — $1,000 for each of the 80 counts. And the judge added $8,000 in a special assessment.

Minas earlier surrendered his medical license. Lodge said Minas would not ever be allowed to work in the medical field, and that the doctor would need the approval of his parole officer to volunteer in that field.

Two former patients who testified at the hearing on Minas’ behalf described him as a highly competent physician. Robert Cook, hurt in a traffic accident, said Minas typically spent about a half-hour with him per visit.

“He was the best doctor. He was the most thorough. With my pain, he really tried to find out what was going on,” Cook said.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell