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SALT LAKE CITY -- The doctor known as the "Candy man" pleaded guilty in federal court Friday.
Dr. Warren Stack pleads guilty to 3 charges
Dr. Warren Stack made a plea deal, pleading guilty to three of 18 counts against him. He admitted to charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, health care fraud and money laundering.
He did not admit to causing the five reported deaths. Both the prosecution and defense say they are satisfied with the resolution, but patients' families want more.
Ron Yengich, Stack's attorney, said, "[He's] guilty and responsible for certain things that were in the indictment, and he pled to them. He's never felt that he was guilty of everything that was charged in the indictment, but he's always felt responsible. And he resolved it that way."
Yengich added, "He feels remorse not only for the practice that was employed, but also for letting a lot of people down in his own life."
Stack himself had no comment.
Stack also admitted to the judge that between November of 2005 and 2007, he saw roughly 80 patients per day, gave out narcotic prescriptions without an exam and billed insurance companies and Medicare between $70 and $200 per visit.
Barbara Bearnson, with the U.S. Attorney's Office, said, "Dr. Stack's conduct was egregious, and this plea negotiation is an excellent result."
But Dr. Stack and his attorney maintain his practice never resulted in any deaths. "His thoughts are he was guilty and responsible for certain things that were in the indictment, and he pled to them," Yengich explained. "He never felt he was guilty of everything that was charged in the indictment, but he's always felt responsible, and he resolved it that way."
Terms of plea deal
The plea agreement means Stacks is looking at eight years in prison, if the court accepts the recommendation from prosecutors.
They will also recommend he pay restitution to the parties involved, including SelectHealth and the federal Medicare program, which were outlined in counts 16 and 18 of the indictment.
As for the other 15 counts, including the unlawful distribution of a controlled substance that resulted in the deaths of five of his patients, those counts have been dropped.
Patients' families don't like the deal
Tom Scott, the father of one of those patients was in court Friday. He says Stack is getting off too easy. "I don't think it's fair that he should have a chance to get his life back. He took so many people's lives that I think he should have to give up his life. I think he should've spent the rest of his life in prison," he said.
Scott says his son was being treated for back pain and had overdosed once before. Unbeknownst to him, Brandon Scott returned to Dr. Stack for more prescription drugs, even after he'd undergone treatment and rehabilitation for his pain. But Scott believes he was seeking the prescriptions legitimately because of pain.
The Scotts sued Stack and reached an out-of court settlement. Several other families have also sued Stack, at least one of which claims their son died under his care.
Stack, though, was never charged criminally in their deaths, and Yengich says that was never part of the case. "There was never going to be a date when we pled to his being responsible for any deaths," he said.
Stack will be sentenced July 21. Until then, he will not be held behind bars.