Julia Roberts Goad
CHARLESTON — A former Williamson physician pleaded for her freedom in federal court but was sentenced to six months in prison for operating one of the most prolific “pill mills” in the state.
Dr. Diane Shafter was sentenced in federal court Tuesday afternoon by U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver.
Judge. Copenhaver Jr. rejected a request for probation from the defense lawyer for Shafer. Defense lawyer Dwane Tinsley had asked the judge to allow Shafer to remain at her Mingo County home, where she cares for her frail 81-year-old mother. Tinsley also cited the letter in which Shafer expressed “true remorse” for her crime.
According to court documents, Shafer was investigated by the West Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI after numerous complaints had been received that a staff member at her practice was providing prescriptions signed by Dr. Shafer in exchange for cash and/or drugs.
Baisden said the practice stayed open even when Shafer was out of town. “Shafer would fill out and sign the prescriptions and place them in the patients files with the date left blank,” court documents said.
Shafer pleaded guilty in May to a conspiracy charge. The 60-year-old admitted she left signed prescription slips at her Mingo County office for staff to hand out in her absence.
From December 2002 through the present, Shafer wrote 118,445 controlled substances prescriptions, the investigation showed. As part of the report, Shafer’s prescription writing practices were compared to for four Charleston-based physicians, two of whom specialize in pain management,
“Dr. Shafer’s patients had more controlled substance prescriptions filled on a given day than all four of the Charleston doctors combined,” documents said.
Based on a patient register provided to WVSP, the daily cash intake for one 13-day period, not including insurance payments, was approximately $89,000, or $6,800 daily. Using those numbers, with her office open four days per week, 50 weeks per year, annual income would total $1.36 million, excluding insurance payments.
“It is estimated that Dr. Shafer may have grossed in excess of $7 million in cash payments from December 2002 through January 15, 2010,” documents stated.
Copenhaver called the sentence he handed Diane Shafer on Tuesday a warning over the scourge of drugs in the region.