WILLIAMSPORT — Dr. Raymond Kraynak on Thursday unexpectedly pleaded guilty to 12 felony counts of illegal distribution or dispensing of prescription drugs, ending a nearly four-year-long legal battle.
The plea was made as the defense was set to begin its case after the prosecution completed its case on Wednesday after 10 days at the federal courthouse in Williamsport. U.S. Judge Matthew Brann accepted the plea and Kraynak will be sentenced at a later date in federal court.
As part of the plea deal, Kraynak is likely to face a maximum of 15 years in prison, a fine and probation to be determined, potential restitution to the victims and additional court fees and costs.
“This brings comfort and satisfaction to the victims and their families, and they can put this behind them,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Behe.
“The case was compelling and everything we expected it to be. I am pleased the public has been able to hear the entire scope of the case so there is no mystery or confusion about the prosecution of the case. This trial separated legend from fact.”
Federal agents arrested the now-suspended 64-year-old Mount Carmel doctor on Dec. 21, 2017. The indictment stated Kraynak allegedly prescribed more than six million opioids, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and fentanyl, between May 2012 and July 2017, and was responsible for the death of five patients: Rosalie Carls, 43, of Frackville; Andrew R. Kelley, 48, of Mahanoy City; Debra F. Horan, 56, of Elysburg; Mary Anne Langton, 55, of Mount Carmel, and Catherine Schrantz, 35, of Hellertown.
The remainder of the charges — five felony counts of illegal distribution or dispensing resulting in death and two felony counts of maintaining drug-involved premises for his offices in Mount Carmel and Shamokin — were dropped.
Each felony count of illegal distribution comes with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, meaning Kraynak was facing a maximum penalty of 240 years in prison and $12 million in fines.
Also, while Kraynak did not plead guilty to the illegal distribution or dispensing resulting in death, the former doctor acknowledged his prescribing practices resulted in the death of his patients, according to the plea deal.
In addition to Carls, Kelley, Horan, Langton and Schrantz, seven other patients died: Donna Bynum, 36, of Mount Carmel; Wanda Ebright, 34, of Mount Carmel; Francis Gaughan, 47, of Lost Creek; Randy Wiest, 50, of Coal Township; Faith Herring, 42, of Atlas; Teresa Madonna, 49, of Schuylkill Haven; and Jessica Slaby, 38, of Coal Township. The government did not charge Kraynak in these seven deaths, but all 12 were listed in the indictment in relation to the illegal distribution charges.
U.S. Assistant Public Defender Thomas Thorton said the decision to plead guilty was made by Kraynak on Wednesday evening after the prosecution rested. The government had offered a plea deal prior to trial.
“It is the best resolution for Dr. Kraynak that we could achieve based on the evidence,” said Thorton.
“It became clear to Dr. Kraynak that it was time to accept responsibility for what happened.”
Kraynak only answered in “yes” or “no” statements when the judge asked him questions to determine whether he knowingly and willingly was pleading guilty on his own volition. When asked whether he was guilty of the crimes alleged against him, he hesitated for a few seconds before saying he was.
Kraynak and his family and friends declined comment following the hearing. Prosecution witnesses and family members also declined comment.
Brann ordered a pre-sentence investigation and report before Kraynak is sentenced. A sentencing date is not yet scheduled.
Kraynak remains free on $500,000 bail until the sentencing date.
Behe did not push for Kraynak to be placed back into custody because Kraynak has cooperated and has not missed any court dates since he was arrested in 2017.
The trial was expected to last four weeks with the expectation for it to be finished next week.