By MELINDA WILLIAMS
ROANOKE – A former Dublin doctor convicted of 172 counts of dispensing pain medication without having authority to do so was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison Tuesday. She also was ordered to pay $17,125.
Dr. Linda Sue Cheek, practicing as New River Medical Associates at 28 Town Center Drive in Dublin, was convicted of 86 counts of distributing scheduled controlled substances without holding a valid certificate of DEA Registration, 81 counts of using a DEA registration number issued to another person and five counts of using a DEA registration number which had been revoked or suspended.
The 64-year-old physician could have received 1,204 years in federal prison and a fine of over $64 million if she received the maximum sentence on all counts.
According to reports, Judge Glen E. Conrad said he felt Cheek had a “genuine desire” to treat patients suffering from “difficult-to-treat” pain, but that she couldn’t “violate the law and be a successful practitioner.” Cheek was ordered to immediately begin serving her sentence.
Cheek’s license to practice medicine was suspended in 2008 after she pleaded guilty in federal court to defrauding Medicaid and Medicare. Her license was re-instated in February 2009 and then re-suspended in July 2011.
Her DEA Registration number allowing her to prescribe medications had not been reinstated when she was prescribing pain medicines on her own DEA number that was suspended in 2008 and the number of another doctor, Kathleen Schultz, affiliated with the practice. Schultz surrendered her medical license following Cheek’s indictment, but she was not charged.
She was still on probation for the fraud convictions when she was indicted for illegally dispensing pain medications.
Conrad said Cheek would never be able to practice medicine again and suggested she may forfeit the medical building since it was used to further her criminal activity, according to reports.
Of the case, United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said, “Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that is destroying lives and ruining too many Virginia communities. Despite losing her license to prescribe medicine, Dr. Cheek illegally fed the addiction of hundreds of patients while collecting their money.
“The criminal prosecution of unethical medical professionals like Dr. Cheek is a central part of our comprehensive strategy to address the prescription drug crisis. We must also continue to reduce demand and provide effective treatment if we are to have an impact on this public health emergency.”
According to the indictment, Cheek charged new patients $150 for an office visit. Returning patients were charged “specific fees up to $110 for subsequent office visits depending upon the number of months’ supply of prescription controlled substances the patient obtained.”
If the patient was prescribed a 30-day supply of one prescription, the cost was $55; adding a second 30-day supply increased the office visit fee to $85, and a third 30-day supply bumped it up to $110, authorities said.
A new patient working with the DEA was able to obtain a prescription for 45 tablets of hydrocodone after seeing Cheek in May 2009. Authorities said that prescription was written under Schultz’s DEA number even though she never saw or examined that patient.
The indictment alleged it was “routine practice” at New River Medical Associates for Schultz to see patients once after an initial visit with Cheek. On subsequent follow-up visits, patients allegedly saw Cheek, who gave them prescriptions Schultz pre-signed. Authorities indicated Shultz would sign more than 200 pre-printed prescriptions for controlled substances for Cheek to dispense before Schultz’s next visit to the practice.