Ex-Griz player admits conspiracy to get pain pills

2014-05-13T16:00:00Z 2014-09-03T13:19:08Z Ex-Griz player admits conspiracy to get pain pillsBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A physical therapist and former University of Montana basketball player admitted Tuesday that he broke into homes in the Scobey community and stole prescription pills from patients.

During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters in Billings, Kevin R. Criswell, 31, of Libby, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to acquire a controlled substance by subterfuge. A plea agreement calls for a second count of acquiring drugs by subterfuge to be dismissed at sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan McCarthy said there were 91 victims.

A co-defendant, Cale J. Handran, 33, of Scobey, an assistant physical therapist, is scheduled to change his plea on May 19.

Criswell, McCarthy said, worked as a physical therapist for Daniels Memorial Healthcare Center in Scobey.

In February 2012, Daniels County Sheriff Skip Baldry received numerous complaints from Scobey residents that someone had entered their homes and stolen prescription pain medication, he said.

One resident told the sheriff that Criswell had tried to enter the residence of one physical therapy patient knowing that the patient was not home at the time, he said.

When the sheriff interviewed Criswell in March 2012, Criswell admitted stealing prescription pills from five people. By April, Criswell had admitted to at least five burglaries and to stealing pain medication eight times, McCarthy said.

During another interview four months later, the sheriff had a list of patients who had received physical therapy through Daniels Memorial Hospital from January 2011 through March 15, 2012, McCarthy said. Criswell admitted to stealing mostly hydrocodone and oxycodone pills from 62 of the patients.

Victims told investigators that they noticed their pain medication was not working, McCarthy said. When they contacted the pharmacist to learn why, the pharmacist told them that the pill bottles contained aspirin or Tylenol and not the medication they had been prescribed, he said.

Assistant Federal Defender Steve Babcock said burglary was not part of the federal crime and that Criswell was not charged in state court with burglary.

Criswell told the judge he is working at Orthopedic Rehab in Libby and understands he could lose his license.

Criswell’s physical therapy license with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Business Standards Division is active, with an expiration date of April 1, 2015.

Marcie Buogh, executive director of the Board of Pharmacy and a spokeswoman, said Tuesday the Board of Physical Therapy Examiners has a process for reviewing disciplinary actions but has not yet received information about Criswell.

Criswell told the judge he has a bachelor's degree in exercise science and a doctorate in physical therapy from UM.

He also said he has completed three months of out-patient treatment, four months of counseling and is in a recovery support group. 

A former Griz guard, Criswell was a ranked scorer in the Big Sky Conference from the 2003 through 2006 seasons.

Criswell faces a maximum of four years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

The plea agreement said the parties agree Criswell is likely to qualify for a sentencing range of from zero to six months and that the advisory guidelines do not recommend a prison term.

Watters set a tentative sentencing date for Sept. 10 and continued Criswell’s release.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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