LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- A doctor who worked for an indicted pain clinic owner testified Tuesday that patients would travel as much as 16 hours to be treated but frequently didn't face scrutiny or background checks before being prescribed potentially addictive medications.
Dr. Robert Marshall of Lafayette, La., testified that it was difficult for doctors at Urgent Care Services to tell whether a patient was being truthful about symptoms and did little to check a patient's reason for making daylong journeys to the clinic. Marshall, who's not charged in the case, said that patients caught lying were discharged, but that catching them could be difficult.
"The problem is that if they're lying to me and I haven't caught it, I don't know," said Marshall, who worked at the Urgent Care Services clinic in Lafayette.
Marshall testified at the trial of 46-year-old Michael Leman of Slidell, La., and two of his businesses, Urgent Care Services of Philadelphia and Urgent Care Services of Cincinnati. Leman and the two businesses are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder funds.
An indictment says Leman conspired with several of his employees to prescribe methadone and oxycodone to bogus patients who were working with drug dealers to distribute them in eastern Kentucky. Authorities say runners would travel from Kentucky to Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio to pick up prescriptions for drugs that would be distributed in areas such as Pike and Floyd counties from 2004 through 2008.
Leman's attorney said previously that the doctors were overprescribing drugs on their own and staff members were making side deals with patients without Leman's involvement.
The clinic CEO and a clinic nurse are awaiting sentencing. Two doctors pleaded guilty and served four years in prison.
Marshall's testimony came after attorney Glenn Burns, who represents the clinics, told jurors that the clinics were properly run.
"Mr. Leman started this business because he wanted to do it right," Burns said.
Burns asked Marshall about how the clinic functioned and what measures were in place to cut off patients suspected of abusing prescription drugs. Marshall cited three patients from Kentucky who were dismissed from treatment.
Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger West, Marshall testified that from 2005, when he started with the clinic in Lafayette, through about 2007, patients faced no questions about their backgrounds. Marshall also testified that he did not personally check to see if a patient had been kicked out of another Urgent Care facility before prescribing methadone or another powerful drug.
"I rely on my staff to do their jobs, as you do," Marshall said.
"Let's not talk about my staff," West responded. "I think they do a wonderful job."
West asked Marshall about a patient from Prestonsburg, Ky., who drove 16 hours to Lafayette, La., to get pain medication from Urgent Care Services in 2005 and 2006. The patient had been barred from an Urgent Care Services facility in Slidell, La., in February 2005.
Marshall said he was unaware the patient had been dismissed and understood the man was on a work assignment in Lafayette. Marshall said the man was prescribed methadone to be taken four to five times a day, but that he was being weaned off the medication because of addiction issues.
West said the patient's file didn't note any addiction issues.
"The documentation is not the best in the world, I admit that," Marshall said.
When the patient was barred from the Lafayette facility, the letter terminating his care was sent to eastern Kentucky. West asked if there had been documentation -- such as an address or phone number -- to show the man was living in Lafayette temporarily.
"When you go on a trip, do you put the address of the hotel you are staying in?" Marshall asked.
"I'm not a drug trafficker driving 12 hours to pick up medication," West responded.
The manager of multiple pain clinics, Frederick Fuoco of New Orleans, testified that the clinics don't generally take insurance.
"Do you recall the primary method of payment?" West asked.
"There was no insurance. It was cash or credit card," said Fuoco, who made $175,000 last year as president of Urgent Care Services.
Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere is on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP