Former Chiropractor Sentenced to Federal Prison for Distribution of Oxycodone

PORTLAND, Ore.—A Clackamas, Oregon man was sentenced to federal prison today for distributing oxycodone pills acquired from dozens of fraudulent prescriptions, one of which led to the overdose death of Starlin Swan, a 26-year-old woman.

Mark Steven Gardner, 33, was sentenced by the Honorable Michael W. Mosman to 50 months in federal prison followed by 3 years of supervised release.

“The opioid epidemic has cost more than 500,000 American lives. The death toll in this country is staggering and the tragic loss that surviving family members must endure is devastating.  This prosecution represents our office’s firm commitment to hold those accountable who unlawfully distribute controlled substances that results in death.”  said Acting United States Attorney, Scott Erik Asphaug.

In November 2015, Gardner, a chiropractor, stole a prescription pad from a physician with whom he shared his Portland office building. Over the next four months, Gardner used the doctor’s name to forge fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions. Gardner instructed others to fill the prescriptions at times when he knew the doctor’s office, to which he had access, was closed. Gardner would then enter the doctor’s office, answer the doctor’s office phone, and pose as the doctor to verify the authenticity of the prescriptions when contacted by pharmacies. The individuals filling the prescriptions would typically give Gardner half of the pills received.

On January 8, 2016, Gardner called 911 to report finding a female friend unresponsive. Paramedics arrived on scene and found Ms. Swan deceased.  A subsequent autopsy and toxicology examination revealed that Ms. Swan had died of an oxycodone overdose.

On the afternoon before Ms. Swan’s death, Gardner forged a prescription for Ms. Swan for 90 30mg pills of oxycodone. The prescription was filled the same day, although the pharmacy only filled it for 60 oxycodone pills. 

In total, Gardner forged 48 prescriptions for 25 different recipients, including some scripts that were written after the overdose death of Ms. Swan.  A total of 2,352 30mg oxycodone pills were fraudulently dispersed because of Gardner’s scheme. Following the discovery of the script forgeries, Gardner was stripped of his chiropractic license.

On May 15, 2019, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a three-count indictment charging Gardner with distribution of oxycodone resulting in death; distribution of oxycodone; and acquiring or obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge. On April 19, 2021, he pleaded guilty to unlawful distribution of oxycodone.

Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement. This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with assistance from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, and Homeland Security Investigations. It was prosecuted by Peter D. Sax, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

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