Spokane – Joseph H. Harrington, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Dr. James Stein-Sheridan Shelby, age 50, of Spokane, Washington, pled guilty to conspiring with Timothy James Felch, age 36, of Spokane, Washington, to distribute opioid pain medications, hydrocodone and tramadol, without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice. Dr. Shelby also pleaded guilty to three separate counts of distributing hydrocodone without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice. Dr. Shelby faces maximum terms of imprisonment of twenty years on each charge. United States District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson accepted Shelby’s guilty pleas and scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 15, 2019, at 9:45 a.m. in Spokane, Washington. Shelby’s co-defendant, Felch, entered a plea of guilty to the conspiracy charge in October 2018, and his sentencing hearing is on April 24, 2019, at 11:00 a.m.
According to court documents and information disclosed during the court proceedings, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Tactical Diversion Squad, and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Office of the Inspector General (OIG), initiated a criminal investigation of Dr. Shelby, a dentist, after receiving information that he was distributing hydrocodone and tramadol, without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice to an individual identified as M.B. In April 2018, DEA and HHS OIG executed a warrant to search Shelby’s clinic, Indian Trail Dental Care. When interviewed by federal agents, Shelby immediately indicated he knew DEA agents were at his clinic because of his prescribing to M.B. Shelby stated he initially performed extensive dental work on M.B. and prescribed her hydrocodone when she complained of pain in the lower left side of her jaw with a lump. Shelby stated that he eventually became involved in an inappropriate relationship with M.B. and she became addicted to hydrocodone. Shelby also stated that it had been several years since M.B. had been a regular patient and he was ultimately responsible for the prescriptions. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Shelby issued numerous prescriptions in Felch’s name and in the names of others as a mechanism to provide M.B. with additional amounts of hydrocodone and tramadol.
United States Attorney Harrington said, “Today’s guilty plea should serve as a warning to all medical professionals that if you prescribe opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice, you risk federal prosecution. I commend the DEA and HHS-OIG agents who investigated this case.”
This investigation was conducted by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. This case is being prosecuted by George J.C. Jacobs, III, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.