- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia doctor accused of illegally distributing painkillers to three patients who later died pleaded guilty Tuesday to one charge, ending his trial on its second day.

Dr. Michael Kostenko, who faced 22 charges, admitted to one count of distribution of oxycodone that wasn’t for a legitimate medical purpose.

The 61-year-old Kostenko, who ran Coal Country Clinic in Daniels, faced multiple counts of distribution charges, including three counts of distributing oxycodone that resulted in the deaths of three patients.

Kostenko has been held in jail pending trial.

According to authorities, Kostenko admitted that on Dec. 9, 2013, he wrote more than 370 prescriptions for 22,255 pain pills without actually seeing any of the 271 patients. His staff handed out prescriptions and collected more than $20,000 in cash.

He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing Aug. 23.

“West Virginia is at the epicenter of a drug crisis that is ravaging our state and has left us with the highest overdose rate in the nation,” U.S. Attorney Carol Casto said. “Doctors are entrusted with prescribing authority in order to heal and protect patients, not betray that trust by contributing to prescription drug addiction.”

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