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Former elected county coroner indicted by federal grand jury for distribution of controlled substances

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Kentucky returned an indictment Thursday charging a former elected Kenton County Coroner David W. Suetholz with illegally distributing controlled substances such as oxycodone and OxyContin.

According to court documents, David W. Suetholz, 73, of Ludlow, a medical doctor who served as the elected county coroner for Kenton County until June 30, 2021, unlawfully distributed opioids to three patients on 10 separate occasions between approximately September 2018 and February 2020.

A summons was issued and Suetholz has been directed to appear on Oct. 27. If convicted, Suetholz faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dr. David Suetholz (File photo)

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Special Agent in Charge Keith W. Martin of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Detroit Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Region; Acting Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray of the FBI’s Louisville Field Office; and Executive Director W. Bryan Hubbard of the Kentucky Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the DEA’s Detroit Field Division, Cincinnati District Office Diversion Group, the FBI’s Louisville Field Office, HHS-OIG’s Louisville Field Office, and the Kentucky MFCU.

Trial Attorneys Chris Jason and Dermot Lynch and Assistant Chief Kilby Macfadden of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 90 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 105 million pills. In addition, the Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Individuals who believe that they may be a victim in this case should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website for more information.

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

On Friday afternoon, the Suetholz family issued the following statement via their attorney:

Yesterday, federal prosecutors wrongfully secured an indictment against Dr. David W. Suetholz, a man who has dedicated his life to the well-being of his community, patients, family, and friends. Dr. Suetholz has served Northern Kentucky as a family physician for over 45 years and as the Kenton County Coroner for 30 years.

The combination of being both a family physician and the Kenton County Coroner provided Dr.
Suetholz with a gruesome, first-hand perspective of the opioid and addiction crisis plaguing our

A decade ago he wrote both the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure to alert them to the tsunami of opioid addiction. He decided to combat the “opioid epidemic” long before the phrase gained national attention.

Dr. Suetholz has spent the last 20+ years treating patients with addiction including overseeing a
pilot treatment program for those incarcerated in jail. The cruel irony is that the federal government is accusing him of contributing to the opioid epidemic – the very crisis he has dedicated the latter part of his life combatting.

In the eight weeks since this nightmare began, it is clear that the government sees only numbers and headlines and not the people, patients, or lives saved by our friend, father, and husband. Though this ordeal may cost him his life’s work, Dr. Suetholz continues to worry about his patients but trusts the Court system and is confident he will be vindicated.

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