EXCLUSIVE: Feds — Death Caused By Drugs Prescribed By Former Casper Doctor
Someone died from drugs distributed in the multistate prescription drug conspiracy allegedly orchestrated by a former Casper doctor, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Friday.
The federal government issued arrest warrants for Dr. Shakeel Kahn, his brother Nabeel "Sonny" Khan (sometimes spelled Kahn), and Paul Beland on Friday.
Also, the Wyoming U.S. District Court, acting on a motion from the lead prosecutor, sealed the entire case until the defendants have heard the new charges against them in their initial appearances.
"Making this case public before the Defendants' initial appearance could endanger the safety of a potential witness and law enforcement," Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Sprecher wrote in her motion to seal the case.
"Thus, the case should be sealed until the Defendants have made their initial appearance," Sprecher wrote.
Minutes after these documents were made public on the pacer.gov database, the federal court took down the entire case back to its beginnings a year ago.
The arrest warrants for Kahn, Khan and Beland refer to a new superseding indictment in the case, but that document was not listed in the docket file before the case was suddenly sealed. Kahn, Khan and Beland are in custody. Shakeel Kahn's wife, Lyn, is a co-defendant in the case, but there was not an arrest warrant listed for her on the docket before the case was sealed. She is not in custody.
Before Friday, the previous superseding indictment in May listed 23 counts.
Some of those counts are listed in the arrest warrants, but they all lead with this: "Conspiracy to Dispense & Distribute Oxycodone, Alprazolam, Hydromorphone & Carisoprodol Resulting in Death."
Conviction of death from distributing oxycodone and certain other drugs is punishable by 20 years to life imprisonment, according to federal law.
Health care professionals call the mix of at least one opioid such as oxycodone, a benzodiazepine such as alprazolam (the generic for Xanax) and carisoprodol (a skeletal muscle relaxant) as the "Holy Trinity" of drugs sought for their incredible high. The combination can cause death.
The indictment did not identify the victim or say where or when the death occurred.
The nation has been in the throes of an opioid crisis. In 2015, 52,404 people in the United States died of overdoses, with 33,091 -- or 91 a day -- of them dying from overdoses involving opioids. In October, President Donald Trump declared the crisis a national public health emergency.
The new charge of a death marks the latest development in the complex case started in Wyoming more than a year ago when the Wyoming State Board of Pharmacy asked the DEA to investigate Kahn, who was issuing large prescriptions for controlled substances under two DEA licenses in Arizona and Wyoming. The Arizona and Wyoming boards of medicine subsequently suspended Kahn's medical licenses for prescribing controlled substances outside the standard of care.
Shakeel and Lyn Kahn were arrested at their house on Thorndike Avenue in Casper on Nov. 30, and initially charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
On Jan. 13, the Kahns and Beland were indicted on 20 counts including conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and alprazolam; dispensing of oxycodone; possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and aid and abet; unlawful use of a communication facility; dispensing of oxycodone and aid and abet; and engaging in monetary transactions derived from criminal activity.
Shakeel Kahn also was charged with running a prescription drug criminal enterprise. If convicted on that count alone, he faces between 20 years and life imprisonment.
Shakeel and Lyn Kahn dealt with customers who paid them $500 in cash for a prescription. Customers often would resell the drugs.
In May, the first superseding indictment added Nabeel Khan as a defendant, and included new charges including possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime for Shakeel Kahn; and using carrying and brandishing a gun during a federal drug crime for Nabeel Khan. That superseding indictment raised the number of counts to 23.
Meanwhile, The Natrona County District Attorney's Office charged 15 people with conspiracy to deliver a Schedule II controlled substance (oxycodone and oxycontin); conspiracy to deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance alprazolam; and two counts of conspiracy to deliver heroin.
Ten of those defendants have pleaded guilty, and one has been sentenced. Five other defendants named in the criminal information document have yet to be arrested.