MI: St. Clair Shores Physician Convicted of Causing Patient’s Drug Overdose Death and Prescription Drug Offenses

Healthcare Facility Rx Drug Diversion – Pill Mill

Former St. Clair Shores physician Bernard Shelton, 66, was convicted today by a federal jury in Detroit on twenty-one charges related to the unlawful distribution of prescription drugs. He was also convicted of a patient’s overdose death that resulted from his unlawful prescribing, announced United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison.

Ison was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene, Drug Enforcement Administration, Detroit Field Division.

The trial began on February 28, 2023 and was conducted before United States District Judge Denise Page Hood.

The evidence demonstrated that Shelton prescribed over 5.5 million doses of controlled substances between April 2013 and December 2016.  Shelton prescribed over 2.7 million doses of Schedule II controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, usually prescribing the types and strengths of drugs most valuable on the street market.  When an undercover patient made an initial visit to Dr. Shelton complaining of back stiffness, Dr. Shelton did not examine the patient’s back, but instead asked “What can I give you today” before prescribing the requested narcotics.  The jury found that Dr. Shelton issued twenty-one prescriptions to seven different patients outside the usual course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose so he could charge for office visits and tests. Shelton received over $1.4 million from Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan during the same time period.

Shelton began prescribing opioid pain relievers in 2010 to a patient whose pain was previously treated by prescription strength Motrin.  Shelton prescribed increasingly stronger controlled substances over the next six years, and the patient became addicted to the drugs.  On January 14, 2016, Shelton unlawfully prescribed an increased dosage of oxycodone to the 54-year-old patient.  The patient filled the prescription on January 18, 2016.  The patient suffered an overdose two days later, but received Narcan and survived.  A second oxycodone overdose four days later, on January 24, 2016, was fatal.  

Based on the jury’s verdict, Shelton will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years in prison, with a maximum sentence of life.  Shelton will be sentenced in July, 2023.

Due to licensure actions, Shelton has been unable to prescribe controlled substances since January 2017.

“Doctors who dangerously prescribe opiates for their own profit endanger the community just like other drug dealers.  When a doctor causes an overdose death with an illegitimate prescription, we will not hesitate to hold the doctor accountable,” stated U.S. Attorney Ison. “My office is committed to keeping highly addictive opioids off the street, and we will aggressively investigate and prosecute medical professionals  or anyone else who illegally distribute controlled substances.”

“The DEA, through regulation and enforcement, will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to investigate and eventually prosecute medical professionals who use their position to conceal the unlawful diversion and distribution of prescription drugs,” said Special Agent in Charge Greene.

The case was investigated by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the St. Clair Shores police department and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  The trial was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Wayne F. Pratt and Lisandra Fernandez-Silber.

Press Release


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