GULFPORT -- A doctor lauded for humanitarian disaster aid has been sentenced to prison and fined $10,000 for his role in a prescription-pill ring at a Waveland clinic.
Dr. Steve Morris III, 56, was sentenced to 37 months in prison in U.S. District Court on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden also ordered three years of probation in a case that centered on activity at Total Health Solutions Inc.
Morris, charged with two others in a 57-count indictment, pleaded guilty in October to one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance outside the scope of professional medical practice.
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He had made headlines in Tampa after serving on medical mission trips, including in 2005 when he joined the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in giving medical aid on the Mississippi Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
He also went to Burma after Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and Haiti after its 2010 earthquake. The Burma trips were sponsored by the University of Southern Florida, where he was on staff 13 years and an instructor for 10 years.
Federal drug agents arrested him in a May 13 raid at the Waveland clinic. He was charged with clinic owner Peggy Laporte, 59, and clinic worker Brittany Spikes, 29. Spikes' charges have been dismissed.
The indictment said the crimes, from as early as 2013 through spring 2015, involved alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug; oxycodone, a narcotic painkiller; and carisoprodol, a non-narcotic muscle relaxer known by the brand name Soma.
An undercover agent acting as a patient visited Morris 22 times, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie said at Morris' plea hearing, and each time received prescriptions for oxycodone and alprazolam. Morris never performed a serious examination into a cause for the pain the agent claimed and never noted a reason to prescribe the anti-anxiety drug, he said.
Medications given to patients included 3,500 doses of oxycodone and 2,300 doses of alprazolam and Valium, also an anti-anxiety medicine, the prosecutor said.
Laporte pleaded guilty to the same charge as Morris in October.
She will be sentenced Wednesday.
She had worked at a similar clinic in LaPlace, La., where authorities have said she learned about the illegal trade of running a pill mill from a woman, Gloria Adams, convicted of a similar crime. Meynardie has said Laporte worked for Gloria Adams, serving a five-year prison term for conspiring to sell and fill prescriptions outside the scope of professional medical practice.
Laporte faces a maximum prison term of five years and up to $250,000 in fines at her sentencing. The government has filed a criminal forfeiture to seize $35,977 in drug proceeds and any interest Laporte has in property at 1405 Pier Ave. in Metairie.
Margaret Baker, Sun Herald staff writer, contributed to this report.