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Government: Waveland doctor traded prescription pills for shrimp, gave others away

GULFPORT -- A Waveland doctor accused of running a prescription pill mill sometimes traded prescription pills for shrimp, gave out extra pills to some and gave others away, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie.

Those and other allegations came out in federal court Monday before Dr. Steve Morris III, 56, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance outside the scope of a medical practice.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden set a Jan. 8 sentencing.

Morris is facing a maximum prison sentence of up to 5 years and up to a $250,000 fine. The government also filed a criminal forfeiture to take possession of more than $35,000 in alleged proceeds from the crime as well as two vehicles.

As part of the plea, Morris on Jan. 28 admitted conspiring with two others at his internal medical clinic, Total Health Solutions, to possess and distribute the anti-anxiety drug, alprazolam, outside the scope of his medical practice.

Morris told the judge during his plea, "Yes sir, I am guilty."

Morris has remained in custody since local and federal authorities raided his internal medical clinic on May 13, arresting Morris and two other health-care workers, Peggy Laporte, 59, and Brittany Spikes, 29.

All three were indicted on charges of conspiracy and aiding and abetting one another to possess, distribute and dispense controlled substances outside the scope of a medical practice as outlined in a 57-count indictment.

The government, Meynardie said, will dismiss the remaining charges against Morris at his sentencing.

The medications identified in the indictment that Morris allegedly prescribed are the narcotic painkiller, oxycodone; the anti-anxiety generic drug for Xanax; and carisoprodol, a non-narcotic muscle relaxer known by the brand name Soma.

The alleged crimes occurred as early as 2013 and continued until the April 17 indictment.

In the incident that Morris pleaded guilty to, Meynardie said an undercover agent made 22 visits to Morris and each time received a prescription for oxycodone and alprazolam.

Morris, Meynardie said, prescribed the anti-anxiety drug and the painkiller to the informant without any explanation about why they were needed. He said the doctor never did any serious evaluation to determine a cause for the pain before prescribing the medication and never noted a reason for the anti-anxiety drug. "There was no reason for it," Meynardie said.

In addition, Meynardie said, investigators learned Morris would give other prescription drugs to people he went out on a boat with.

All three defendants, including Morris, pleaded not guilty after their initial arrests.

Morris' attorney, Mike Fawer, asked for Morris to be allowed to bond out of jail pending sentencing but the judge said he wanted an explanation in writing about why the bond should be granted.

Bond was denied for Morris initially because of several factors, including that he was considered a flight risk because his wife and child live in Thailand. Morris later appealed that decision, but a higher court upheld the decision for Morris to remain jailed without bond.

Laporte and Spikes are free on bond pending trial. The maximum penalties in the case is a prison term of 20 years and a $1 million fine on a each of the charges.