COVINGTON, Ky. — Former Kenton County Coroner Dr. David Suetholz pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal drug charges alleging he illegally dispensed opioids to three patients.
Suetholz, 73, was the elected county coroner for 30 years and operated a private practice in the Ft. Wright area.
If convicted, Suetholz faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each of the 10 counts.
The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure has temporarily suspended Suetholz's license to practice medicine, according to Suetholz's defense attorney Bill Brammell.
Brammell also told U.S. Magistrate Candace Smith that Suetholz was closing his medical practice.
Smith released Suetholz on his own recognizance, but required him to surrender his passport and limit his travel to Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
Suetholz's charges stem from an investigation by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, a joint law enforcement group focusing on alleged crimes involving prescription drugs in five states, including Kentucky and Ohio.
According to the United States Department of Justice, the ARPO Strike Force operates out of two hubs; Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee.
The ARPO Strike Force announcements have focused on health care fraud and the illegal dispensing of opioids.
Since 2018, federal officials have announced charges against hundreds of medical professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists and nurse practitioners.
In August 2020, a federal judge sentenced former Hamilton physician Saad Sakkal to 20 years in prison for using his medical practice to deal opioids.
According to testimony from Sakkal’s trial, patients came to his office under the influence of drugs and left with prescriptions for more opiates.
Federal prosecutors also accused former Sycamore Township physician Raymond Noschang of operating a 'pill mill' for years.
In October 2020, Noschang pleaded guilty to eight counts of unlawful distribution of Oxycodone.
Noschang surrendered his medical license, according to federal court records.
Federal prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Susan Dloitt to sentence Noschang to a minimum of 57 months in prison.
But Noschang's defense attorney, Richard Monahan, insisted Noschang wasn't a ruthless physician profiting at his patients expense, was in poor health, and shouldn't be sentenced to prison.
"Dr. Noschang is 61 years old, disabled, and walks with the aid of walker," Monahan wrote in his March 2020 sentencing memorandum to Dlott.
Dloitt sentenced Noschang to one day of prison time-served.
It's just the beginning of the federal prosecution of Suetholz.
His trial is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2022.