A Virginia doctor who was convicted of 172 felony counts of illegally dispensing pain medication has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. A judge also ordered Linda Cheek to pay over $17,000 in fines.
Cheek could have received 1,204 years in prison and a fine of over $64 million if she had received the maximum sentence on all counts.
The 64-year old Cheek wrote several guest columns for National Pain Report about “the government’s war on pain doctors” – claiming that she and other physicians were victims of a federal conspiracy targeting doctors who prescribe opioid painkillers.
Cheek’s license to practice medicine in Virginia was suspended in 2008 after she was convicted of Medicare fraud. Although it was later reinstated, Cheek no longer had a valid DEA license to prescribe controlled substances. However, she continued prescribing pain medications out of her practice in New River, Virginia by using the DEA number of another physician who worked part-time in her office.
According to prosecutors, Cheek wrote 900 prescriptions over a six-day period in 2010. New patients were charged $150 for their initial office visit and $110 thereafter, depending on the size of the prescriptions they obtained.
“Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that is destroying lives and ruining too many Virginia communities. Despite losing her license to prescribe medicine, Dr. Cheek illegally fed the addiction of hundreds of patients while collecting their money,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy.
“The criminal prosecution of unethical medical professionals like Dr. Cheek is a central part of our comprehensive strategy to address the prescription drug crisis. We must also continue to reduce demand and provide effective treatment if we are to have an impact on this public health emergency.”
The Roanoke Times reported that Judge Glen E. Conrad felt Cheek had a “genuine desire” to treat patients suffering from chronic pain, but told her she “can’t violate the law and be a successful practitioner.” He ordered her to begin serving her sentence immediately.
Throughout her trial and during her two day sentencing hearing, Cheek refused to admit she had done anything wrong.
On her website, which she uses to promote alternative and herbal medicine, Cheek wrote that she was convicted “in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary” and said laws against illegal drug trafficking were being used as “a tool against the real doctors of this country.”
“My conviction opened my eyes to a new concept. The Book of Revelation talks about the tribulation at the end of time. I believe we are approaching the end of time,” Cheek said.
“The realization that hit me following my trial was that God didn’t need me healing people physically anymore, because there won’t be much need for that in the future. Instead, he needs me to save souls, and prison is a wonderful place to start.”