Casper Prescription Drug Conspiracy Defendant Pleads Guilty
A former Wyoming resident last week pleaded guilty to several charges in the prescription drug conspiracy case involving a former Casper doctor and his wife, according to federal court records.
Paul Beland entered the change of plea during a half-hour hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson in Cheyenne on Thursday, according to minutes of the hearing.
Specifically, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to dispense and distribute the opioid pain medicine oxycodone, alprazolam (the generic of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax), hydromorphone, and carisoprodol resulting in death; and to two counts of unlawful use of a communication facility.
As part of the plea deal, the government will dismiss three counts of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and aid and abet.
Johnson ordered a pre-sentence investigation, and that will have a sentencing recommendation. A sentencing date will be set later.
Beland could receive a maximum of 28 years on all counts, with the dispensing of the drugs resulting in death carrying a minimum 20-year sentence. Federal sentencing guidelines employ a mathematical formula to determine a range of length of imprisonment including the seriousness of the crimes and a defendant's criminal history.
Beland remains in custody.
Beland was an early target of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's investigation of former Casper Dr. Shakeel Kahn who wrote large prescriptions for controlled substances, according to court records.
From January through August 2016, Kahn and his wife, Lyn, received wire transfers totaling $9,750 from Beland, who wired them from where he lived in Massachusetts, according to an affidavit. “Investigators subsequently conducted an analysis of Beland’s phone records and discovered that Beland is also linked to a heroin supplier in Massachusetts which DEA is currently investigating.”
Investigators also learned Beland recruited people from his family and referred them to Kahn, and he would fly from Massachusetts to Casper to obtain prescriptions of controlled substances from Kahn.
In November 2016, Beland was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone in Massachusetts in November, and his case was transferred to Wyoming.
Meanwhile, the prosecution of Kahn is on hold pending a decision by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the release of his seized assets. The appellate court held a hearing about this interlocutory appeal in January.
And last month, Johnson again denied a motion from Kahn to be released from custody.
Kahn claimed the federal government is violating the Speedy Trial Act and his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.
Johnson wrote the court balances four factors in determining whether a defendant's right to a speedy trial has been violated: the length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his right, and prejudice to the defendant.
Kahn, Johnson wrote, filed the interlocutory appeal and the case is complex. The government has not acted in bad faith, he wrote.
The interlocutory appeal and other factors, such as the second superseding indictment filed in November have caused delays, Johnson wrote.
Kahn has not suffered any "special harm" that's different from any other incarcerated defendant awaiting trial, nor has he shown any impairment to his defense, the judge wrote.
Kahn has said a witness who could have rebutted some of the government's allegations has died, but Johnson wrote he has not identified the witness and the government has responded the person it thinks may be that witness died four months before the original charges.