Prosecutors Reflect on Former Casper Doctor Kahn’s ‘Continuing Criminal Enterprise’
It wasn't enough to accuse former Casper Dr. Shakeel Kahn of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and other pain medicines, including a distribution that caused the death of an Arizona woman, federal prosecutors said Friday after a jury found him guilty of that and other crimes.
Kahn ran what federal law calls a "continuing criminal enterprise" in part because of its wide ranging scope, they said.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Sprecher and David Kubichek held a press conference at the Cheney Federal Building to sum their work, talk about what's next in the sentencing phase, and explain the continuing criminal enterprise count that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.
"His drugs were prolific," lead prosecutor Sprecher said. "They went from the east coast all the way over to the west coast," she said, referring to testimony from former patients from Massachusetts to the Pacific Northwest.
Kahn wasn't just a doctor who happened to take an aggressive approach to treating pain management with high amounts and doses despite his testimony, Kubichek said.
"The evidence showed that was his business," he said. "It wasn't about practicing medicine; it was his pricing structure which I think was most illustrative of this. You paid a particular price for X quantities of your drug of choice, and you paid 2-X if you wanted twice that amount."
Some patients paid $500 in cash for an office visit and a prescription once a month. Some paid $1,650 for visits and prescriptions for much larger amounts and much higher doses. Some prescriptions were for as much as 780 pills of 30 mg each, according to court testimony and exhibits. The street price of such a prescription, at $1 per milligram, would be $23,400.
That's not how most doctors bill their services, Kubichek said. "But it is, however, every one of our meth dealers bills his product."
The continuing criminal enterprise charge required proof that Kahn was working with five or more people, proof he carried out three or more violations of the Controlled Substances Act, and that he obtained substantial resources from that activity.
"In many respects, putting aside characterizations of Al Capone and all of that, this guy's indictment and the evidence showed that he is kind of the picture in the dictionary for this," Kubichek said.
"We got convictions on a dozen, dozen-and-a-half violations of the Controlled Substances Act," he said. "There was no question that he made substantial resources, and the jury was able to find, and I think we were able to prove that he was acting in concert with several other individuals including his wife and Nabeel Kahn and several of the other people who testified."
Friday morning, the five-man seven-woman jury found Kahn guilty on all 21 counts against him in the 23-count indictment, including conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and other drugs that led to the death of Arizona resident Jessica Burch in 2015.
The other convictions were for groups of crimes: 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 monetary transactions derived from specified unlawful activity.
The distribution-resulting-death conviction carries a 20-year to life imprisonment sentence The possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime, which carries an automatic consecutive sentence of five years imprisonment.
Nabeel Kahn was convicted of the conspiracy count, but not the enhanced aspect of conspiracy to distribute the drugs resulting in death. The jury also convicted Nabeel Kahn of brandishing a firearm during a federal drug-trafficking crime, which carries an automatic consecutive sentence of seven years imprisonment.
Three other defendants -- Shakeel Kahn's wife Lyn, Shawnna Thacker and Paul Beland -- pleaded guilty to various crimes in the conspiracy. In exchange for their pleas, they agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution.
With the trial over, the sentencing phase has begun, Kubichek and Sprecher said.
U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson has set the sentencing dates for the Kahns for Aug. 1.
During the press conference, Sprecher said the judge knows what the law says, but he is obligated to receive pre-sentence reports containing thorough background investigations of the defendants. Besides the criminal history, the reports will include family history, mental health history, education history and other factors, she said.
The federal justice system has sentencing guidelines about the crimes, aggravating or mitigating circumstances and other issues, Sprecher said. The judge can then go above or below the recommendations of the guidelines, she said. "It's totally discretionary."
Kubichek added that the judge cannot go below the mandatory minimum sentences in the laws. Johnson will have to honor the 20-year minimum for the continuing criminal enterprise and the five-year minimum for the firearm charge, he said.